Four wins away from reaching the pentacle of the NBA Playoffs the Atlanta Hawks were one of a few teams still playing in the middle of May. Ultimately the Number one seeded Hawks fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 4 games. A bumpy ride leading into that series ended up being the downfall as the Cavs exploited Atlanta weaknesses and injuries they obtained during the second half of the season. The ending is not what they wanted, but this season, one of the most historic in their history shows that once again the Pac Is Back.
This was their second year under head coach Mike Budenholzer and just like last season the team was known for their amazing ball movement and free flowing play. This style of play helped ATL have one of the best starts in NBA history before the All Star break capped of by a perfect month of January; 17-0, the first such month in NBA history. The accomplishment for that feat led to all 5 starting Hawks player being named Eastern Conference Players of the Month in January. The highest reward however were four players making the Eastern Conference Team for the ASG in NYC.
Many people wondered how the Hawks were able to get off to such a hot start without a superstar player or a well known coach. The truth is health. In the 2013-2014 season Atlanta at one point was the third seed behind the Heat and Pacers but fell to the 8th spot due to the loss of their All Star Center Al Horford. That being said, Atlanta stayed true to their play by working the offense throughout every player on the court. Point guard Jeff Teague stepped up in the playoffs which propelled him to a great 2014-2015 season.
The team once again added solid pieces in the off season by picking up FA’s Thabo Selfolosha (Who had his year cut short in a crazy event.) and Kent Bazemore from the Lakers. Atlanta traded their first round pick Adreian Payne to the Timberwolves for a future first round pick. Their second round pick Mike Muscala got a lot of playing time behind Al Horford, Paul Millsap, or Pero Antic. He showed signs of what he can do by hitting clutch shots and being a spark off the bench.
Nearing the end of the regular season the Hawks faced adversity. The team hit a rough patch and started losing to inferior teams on the regular albeit they rested some of their players. It just didn’t seem as if they had the same mojo they possessed earlier in the season. This all peaked one infamous early morning in New York City where they arrived after a late night game the previous night. On April 14, 2015 reserves Pero Antic and Thabo Selfolosha were out in the city at around 4 or 5 am with another NBA star Chris Copeland. An altercation occurred ending with Copeland suffering a stab wound (which he fully recovered from). The two players rushed to his aid and refused to leave which lead to Thabo suffering a season ending injury with a broken right fibula and torn ligaments from baton hits by NYPD officers. Also both players were arrested but were released the same day.
The end of the regular season was approaching and the Hawks lost their last 3 games one to possibly the worst team in the league in the New York Knicks. Seemingly limping in to the playoffs, the Hawks won their first two games against the Nets but subsequently loss the next two in Brooklyn. That brought up questions that if this play style could succeed in the postseason. They quieted the questions for a little bit by winning the next two games and beating the Nets in convincing fashion in game 6. Next up was the Washington Wizards lead by superstar John Wall, Marksman Bradley Beal, and future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce. The Hawks found their-selves in prime position after the star Wall went down with a wrist/hand injury, but ended up being down 2-1 after a miraculous Paul Pierce game winner. The Hawks once showed perseverance as a team and won the next 3 games to take the series. Finally Atlanta faced the number 2 seed Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs proved to be the superior team winning in a sweep over Atlanta.
At this time the Hawks are in an unknown state to many people. They face the potential of losing two starters in DeMarree Carroll and All Star PF Paul Millsap. Their former GM Danny Ferry agreed to part ways with the team after a racial insensitive comment last summer despite recently being cleared.
The team decided to make the HC Mike Budenholzer the President in his place this past week. Finally the NBA Draft is fast approaching and its a mystery at who they’re looking at, but fans should be excited for the future in where the team is heading. This team could be back here next year or maybe even further.