ATLANTA - MAY 2: Forward Josh Smith lays on the floor after a foul during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 2, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Hawks beat the Bucks 95-74. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
How long will game five taint the outcomes of these games? That is the question. Because the last two games, the Hawks have played really, really good basketball without playing that great. Put another way, they have put forth full effort, played great defense, and rebounded well all while failing to get much from their main offensive cog. Really, it is what you expected against the Bucks missing Bogut. Dominating performances because Atlanta was better even when they were not necessarily at their best. So if you only took the four wins, everything would be rosy and wonderful heading into this next series. Shoot, if you just forgot game five, you might feel pretty good about the Hawks right now.
The Bucks, to their immense credit, played their hearts out and took every ounce of the uninjured skill and maxed it out for their three wins. That is not to say the Hawks did not help them toward it, but a lot of best cases went down during those three wins that Milwaukee deserves credit for. It should be a lesson to Atlanta. Best case happens a lot more when you try and play as a team. Yet most people, even those that saw the Hawks winning the next series or maybe just stealing a game or two, are now wallowing in game five and seeing no hope. Well, the Hawks just went into two do or die situations and performed as best as could be expected. And they did it without much offensive help from Joe Johnson.
That takes nothing away from the fact that this should have been a five game series or that Al Horford is switching out Kurt Thomas for Dwight Howard or really that nearly every position is getting upgraded next series. It is all true, but that was all true way before game five. The Hawks were always going to have to play better and get lucky to make any kind of deep run in these playoffs. What we knew long before though was that this team could do exactly that. You role the dice with this team every time they take the court, but as fans, you better believe they are weighted. Four ridiculous throws are improbable only because they are not likely not because they are not possible.
Today was Al Horford, Mike Bibby, and Jamal Crawford in a sandwich with good defense and bad jump shooting. Tuesday, it might be foul trouble, Joe Johnson, effort, and Josh Smith with luck as the lettuce. Point is you never know what you are going to get from this team.The Hawks are that game five team. They also are the team that showed up for those four wins. They are also the team that swept Boston.
What this series showed is that they lose against anyone with their "C" game, and can look down right dominant with their "B" game. What we already know, what anyone knows including Orlando, is they can beat anyone with "A" game.
The Atlanta Hawks cemented their weaknesses this series. Now it is time to cement their ceiling.