An excellent article by Michael Cunningham gets us thinking about the comparisons between the Celtics and the Hawks.
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It seems that you can't talk Atlanta Hawks basketball without the 2008 first round match up between the Hawks and Celtics being brought up. It sounds strange to think about it but that opening round loss by a sub .500 team was probably as responsible for putting the Hawks back into respectability. Despite 47 and 53 win campaigns over the last two seasons still things draw back to that first round series in 2008.
Today Michael Cunningham examines the similarities in the Hawks and Celtics and sites from Rick Sund that he didn't want to break up his big three until they had been through many more tests. I will stop short of comparing each team's big threes. Boston's Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen were All Stars before they ever got to Boston. The Hawks Josh Smith and Al Horford were built from the draft while Joe Johnson was acquired to lead a team which he had never done before on his own. Yet there is that one thing that the Celtics have that the Hawks are searching for.
"The mental side of it, the focus side of it and the toughness side of it," Drew said. "That's what I am preaching to my guys, so that when there are [rough] waters you don't panic, you don't fragment. You weather the storm [and] mentally you push through it.
The Hawks have shown glimpses of it in the past and even showed a lot of it against this same Celtics team last year when they defeated them all four times they played. Yet the Hawks have hardly shown any swagger since their early six game winning streak to start the season. This Celtics team expects to win and refuses to lose where sometimes it looks like the Hawks hope to win. It is a mental thing and it is not something that every team has or is capable of getting.
If you asked this writer about the Celtics last year then I would have told you I never saw a chance of them making the Finals. I thought they were too old, too hurt, and simply not good enough anymore. Yet I underestimated what they do as a team.
Whether Rajon Rondo plays tonight or not, the Celtics will come to Atlanta with those four regular season losses fresh in their minds from last season. They may not talk about it but rest assure it is there. This is a measuring stick game at home tonight and the Hawks better be ready.