The Hawks have a clear path to the NBA finals

Dennis Schroder changed the game, then exulted in its outcome. (John Bazemore/AP photo)

Dennis Schroder changed the game, then exulted in its outcome. (John Bazemore/AP photo)

More celebrations are to come. (John Bazemore/AP photo)

It’s not just that the Atlanta Hawks drew Brooklyn, as opposed to Indiana, in Round 1. The better part comes later: They won’t have to play Chicago in Round 2 and then Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals; instead they get to watch the Cavaliers and the Bulls hammer one another.

The Nets in Round 1 has sweep written all over it. Brooklyn needed a fourth-quarter surge to beat lowly Orlando on Wednesday and then had to wait and see if the Pacers lost in Memphis, which the Pacers did. On Sunday and Monday, the Nets showed how playoff-hungry they were by losing to Milwaukee and Chicago by an aggregate 50 points. Not two weeks ago, they played the Hawks at Philips Arena and lost by 32.

The Nets have the same record — 38-44 — as the Hawks did last season when the latter was the No. 8 seed, but there’s where the similarity ends. The Hawks were a bad stylistic matchup for the top-seeded Pacers because they could spread the court and run Roy Hibbert off the floor. Those Hawks had beaten those Pacers by 19 points in Indianapolis on April 6 and would win twice more there in the playoffs.

Those Hawks were unlucky not to upset the No. 1 seed, losing Games 6 and 7. These Hawks won’t see a Game 6 in Round 1. I’d be surprised if Brooklyn wins at all, even the almost obligatory face-saving Game 3 at home.

As for what comes later: Toronto won’t be easy in Round 2, but the Raptors are much the preferable draw to the Bulls, who have Derrick Rose back yet again, if not fully operational, and have the size to hurt the Hawks underneath. Yes, Toronto is 3-1 against the Hawks — it’s the only Eastern team to beat them even twice — but two of those losses came before Thanksgiving.

Dwane Casey is a very good coach and Kyle Lowry is a tough point guard and Lou Williams (whom the Hawks know well) is a big-time scorer, but still: The Raptors should not beat the Hawks over seven games. And the winner of that series figures to be in much better shape for the Eastern finals than the bruised survivor of Cavs-Bulls.

Were I Mike Budenholzer, this is exactly how I’d have laid it out: No Pacers in Round 1 for a third consecutive year; no Bulls in Round 2; no Cavs until Round 3. (You’ll note that none of the Hawks’ starters played over the final 15 minutes of Wednesday’s loss in Chicago; a Hawks’ victory would have dropped the Bulls to the No. 4 seed and a possible second-round date with Atlanta.)

I say again: The Hawks should reach the NBA finals.

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79 comments
Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Nothing would be more fun than to watch the Hawks with their "team basketball" philosophy (which, credit to Coach Bud, they employ regardless of who is on the floor (first team, second team, reserves, or any mixture thereof) get into the finals this year. Where, as we all know, anything can happen. If they play and utilize their system to the fullest extent possible, they have a chance of getting there and winning. But this will require and extraordinary effort, perhaps an unprecedented effort (because they do not have "superstars"), but they just might pull it off. 


But, if they don't, this has been a great year for basketball in Atlanta, regardless of what happens. And regardless of who comes and who goes (I assume the Coach Bud is here to say for a good long while), they need to stick to their guns on this style of play. It  may not happen this year, but it is the game of the future because I think not only the fans, but the owners and executives in the NBA have realized how much fun it is for  the fans to watch a team like the Hawks. 


You never know from game to game who will step up that night. Who will be the hero. It could be a second  team player, or even a reserve.  And good passing and play making is just as exciting, or not more so, than an outstanding individual performance, or a great alley oop or slam dunk. It is not unthinkable that they might acquire a bona fide "superstar" and persuade that player that "team basketball" with the right personnel can go all the way, and have that player fully adapt.


Anyway, I hope they win, win, win. But they may not. If they do win, at point they will meet up with teams with super stars, and the NBA is not gong to change to a team culture over night. You don't have to be the most sophisticated fan in the world to wonder why) let's just pick on LeBron for a second here, but he's not the only one, and he didn't start it , Jordan did) LeBron gets calls and no-calls that the other players do not get in close games (all year long), an especially in the finals. It will take a while for that kind of thing to go away if the NBA does actually allow professional basketball to evolve into what it was in the beginning. A team sport.  

caneowar
caneowar

Don't like the way the Hawks finished the season. They played mediocre basketball after the all star game at best. If this team don't wake up, Brooklyn will take them the full seven. They will have to show me the heart they had the first half of the season, before they even have a snow balls chance in he!! of beating Cleveland, Chicago, Toronto or even Washington. Hawks have to come out of their daze before they even think about taking a sniff at a NBA title. Having said that. Make Georgia proud Hawks.

PeachtreeBart
PeachtreeBart

@caneowar I get your point, but in fairness, they would have won 65+ games instead of 60 if they hadn't rested their players so often and suffered injuries.  I think the team that surged ahead of Chicago by 18 points this week was the Hawks we'll see the most of in the playoffs.  

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

HAWKS LINEUP FOR PLAYOFFS


TEAGUE, KORVER, CARROLL, MILSAP, HORFORD


SCHRODER, BAZEMORE, SCOTT, MUSCLA, ANTIC


GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

Mike Scott must play SF, with Muscla beasting this will make the Hawks a better team defensively in the paint.


GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

Nobody in the East will beat the Hawks if they play lock down defense.


HAWKS TO THE FINALS SHOULD BE EASY MARK BRADLEY


GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

tidog
tidog

Sports fan throw the term choke (chokers) around way too often. In professional sports and sports in general there's never a outcome to the event before the event is finalized. The upcoming playoffs features talented players (the best professional basketball players in the world). Competion will be at it's apex for the 7 game series for all invovled. We talking NBA players vs NBA players. The teams that execute their offense and defense the best for  seven game series will win. Choke has zero to with the outcome. Execution and a little lady luck. Go Hawks and good luck to the organization and city.

ATLnative72
ATLnative72

You forget this team has "Atlanta" in its name.  However, if any team has been built choke-proof, this is that team.  But again, with the Atlanta factor, a choke is still a 50/50 probability.  Your kiss of death does not help either, good sir.


The Hawks are by far the best team and the East and, therefore, should win the East.  Anything less than the finals will be a huge disappointment.  Period.


BravesFan79
BravesFan79

I think the Hawks should be the favorites over any teams in the NBA except the Spurs and Warriors.   Im hoping that somehow a team like the Clippers makes a miracle run and its Clipps or Memphis vs Atlanta in the Finals.

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

 Lets make one thing perfectly clear, 

ATLANTA HAWKS RULE the Eastern Conference.


WPL
WPL

Hawks are not going to make it to nba finals.


IT'S GOING TO BE WARRIORS VS CAVALIERS


The only way hawks make it out of the east is Lebron James decides he's not going to play! Bright lights is when the superstars come out! 

DawgnIT
DawgnIT

As a metro ATL native, I want to see "Finals" on the home court for the first time ever.  Having lived through the Braves run and only seeing 1 world championship, I can't be patient.  Take everything you can get right now ATL!

Wilbo
Wilbo

"Those Hawks were unlucky not to upset the No. 1 seed, losing Games 6 and 7."

You write a freakin' boocoo stupid stuff, Brat Li, this is amongst the stupidest (and most dishonest) The Hawks 1st round loss last year had NOTHING whatsoever to do w luck, they choked, wilted, lost focus, gave up, succumbed to the pressure, found the heat of the spotlight too intense - however you want to frame it, they had the Pacers on the brink and they didn't have the intestinal fortitude (nards if you prefer) to finish the job. In short, they choked. Period. And until the Atlanta Hawks can show they won't fall apart at the first opportunity, you have to predict they will do exactly the same thing again this time. Maybe a little later this year, but same same....


"I say again: The Hawks should reach the NBA finals."

Shoulda, woulda, coulda....." suckah, that oughtta be the Hawks (all Atlanta pro sports') team motto.



Wilbo
Wilbo

@PalmBeachFalcon


Mickey Mantle came up to the Yanks the year I was born. Loved those teams. Exciting times when Maris hit 61. Loved Joe Torre when he was in ATL, so I was happy for him when they had their great run in the last half of the 90's, but nowadays, Wilbo ain't got no love for the Yankees. And I don't even know what a Knickerbocker is.

Jerry916
Jerry916

There are no easy paths in the playoffs.  That's a perception of those that watch from the sidelines.  The games have to be played, and you should never take your opponent lightly.  


A lot of things can happen over the next few games that could completely change the outlook of this column.


Points to consider:


- Korver hasn't been his usually "deadly from three" self since the broken nose.

- Millsap is coming off an injury where he missed several games

- Antic has struggled most of the 2nd half

- The Hawks' defense hasn't been close to what it was during the long winning streak

- Teague, Scott, and Schroder have all battled ankle / foot injuries in the last 30 days

- The bench has not played well down the stretch


Toronto handled the Hawks fairly easy at home and on the road, so they are no gimme.  It's "good to be King", but let's not get overly confident just yet.


The Atlanta Hawks have never been in the Eastern Conference Finals.


Oh, and the Spurs beat the Hawks twice this season also .

DawgnIT
DawgnIT

@Jerry916 Opinions are fine but what does history have to do with 2015?  Also, the Spurs are not in the East.

Wilbo
Wilbo

@DawgnIT


History is very important in sports! 


Chokers choke. Winners win. Hawks choked away last year's Pacers series and 'til they prove they can win w the big prize on the line, you're nuts not to expect them to gag like a maggot in this postseason.

nomanland5
nomanland5

@Jerry916 milsap didn't "miss" 7 games. bud sat him out cause the hawks were playing for nothing. milsap was cleared to play like 2 games after getting hurt. some people

oh and the spurs are a west team...... they have to beat everyone without home court to get a shot at the hawks. but hell spur vs hawks in the finals???? best finials ever

Dman
Dman

I agree we have the easiest path, but do we have the playoff type team to do it? Don't know because this team never has. Will be fun to watch...

Rickster_
Rickster_

MB: "I say again: The Hawks should reach the NBA finals."

This from the man that thought Kentucky would win it all. (I'm just saying.)

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

@Rickster_ "The Hawks should reach the NBA finals."

Yeah, they "should", as in "it sure would be nice and besides it's only fair since they've sucked for so many years, so they're due."

But if MB means they "should", as in a prediction that they actually WILL reach the finals, then that's just more of the BS wishful thinking ATL pro teams count on year after year..

Wilbo
Wilbo

@Bumper15


Year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year 

nomanland5
nomanland5

@Rickster_ hey predicting college basketball is almost like flipping a coin. did anyone other than me pick georgia state being the 6th seed? pffh

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

They still have to shoot the ball at a high percentage consistently and play defense. You got to get back to when you won eighteen games in a row....

JaperJones1918
JaperJones1918

I know you have to write stuff Bradley, but don't JINX this!

Wilbo
Wilbo

@hipdawg He should be sweeping the floor after the real journalists go home for the night.

ATLBrown
ATLBrown

I will be disappointed if the Hawks don't make it to the Finals.  I don't expect them to win the Finals - it would be tough to beat the Spurs, Grizz, Warriors in a 7-game series.  But they have shown they are the best in the East.  Toronto seems to have their number, but I think having the home court advantage will help push them through.  I'm excited to see how rockin' Philips Arena will be in the second round, assuming we make quick work out of the Iso Nets.

crackbaby
crackbaby

Completely disagree that TOR is a better matchup than CHI.  Al Horford owns the Bulls.  P Gasol can't cover big Al.  Did you happen to notice last night that Hawks starters were +20 against Bulls 1st team?  Toronto gives Atlanta all kinds of matchup problems with their athleticism.

Doesn't matter b/c to be EC champs you have to beat whoever shows up in the draw.

Finally - GAMES THAT MATTER.  GO HAWKS!

Birdhair
Birdhair

The worst thing we could possibly read is a guarantee from mark Bradley. If he says sweep it likely means we lose or get pushed to the limit. See his analysis on the Braves. All wrong.

1337S0lja
1337S0lja

Just remember everyone. We are a year ahead of schedule. Jenkins needs work, Schroder will have the offseason to get better and Moose will be a most improved player candidate next year.  Schroder and Butler should be in the most improved catergory this year.  Jenkins may be replaced by Winslow, Kaminsky (Peros replacement) or Dekkar.  I am not sure what other NCAA players are out there.  The Spurs were ahead of schedule in 2012 with Splitter and Leonard.  Have faith in your team but understand that the process to a title takes time. Forget the misfortunes of the past and think about the present. Believe. IN BUD WE TRUST

mic404
mic404

Coach Bud has changed the culture of the Hawks, no they won't choke. They may not win a Championship this year, but if they make it to the ECF or the Finals it's a stepping stone. It's usually a process to win a Title, you may have to tweak a little here or there before you find the right formula.

Wilbo
Wilbo

@mic404 "they won't choke"


Easy to say. Tough to prove. They are chokers until they prove otherwise.

Chi Ali
Chi Ali

nope the nets really helped the hawks cause if the pacers came they would have really pushed the hawks nets no garnett no teletovic no problems for the hawks..I just hope they can stay healthy and that the wizards can give the cavs some problems cause the cavs lucked up with the Celtics although coach stevens running may tire the cavs legs, the second season starts now..hawks like most nba fans the last month or so crusie control hell I haven't watched the hawks in a month but come this Saturday THE PLAYOFFS

BeastOPS
BeastOPS

@Chi Ali The Wizards won't face the Cavs unless it's in the ECF.

nomanland5
nomanland5

@BeastOPS @Chi Ali we rooting for the bulls to beat cavs. a one legged rose is not as hard to cover as a triple threat

someonesdad
someonesdad

Seems like you'd mention the schedule.  When do the playoffs start?  When do the Hawks play?  No, I haven't watched a game since the 80s, but I might watch a playoff game.

tabel229
tabel229

Go Hawks.  The Braves ain't going anywhere.

scooter1320
scooter1320

Resting the starters for a month will be the kiss of death. Coach Bud only brought the knowledge of how to win to the Hawks not the players. San Antonio can rest its stars because they know how to win championships. If the Hawks play like they have for the past two weeks, there will be a lot of hurt feelings in the ATL after a first round loss. BTW, the Hawks swept the series from Brooklyn this season. Pretty tough to keep beating the same team over and over. 

CowbellHell
CowbellHell

@scooter1320 Please get on here in a week when we sweep these bums off the floor dude and admit how totally wrong you are...


GO HAWKS GO

nomanland5
nomanland5

@scooter1320 how is it tough to keep beating a team you win against? nets only chance at this playoffs is to play for fun lol