The Hawks did it… AGAIN

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As Atlanta sports fans, we’ve been put through the ringer time and time again. I don’t even have to go through the countless heartbreaking — almost unfathomable — losses that have probably made several of you question whether you’ll ever tune into another sporting event again. But like a sick addiction, we crawl back to the TV every time, expecting something to be different, and it never changes. Well, it looks like we finally found the team that was built to flip the script.

I was in the building for Games 3 and 4 at State Farm, and for three halves, it was mostly quiet as the 76ers did whatever they wanted offensively while the Hawks seemingly couldn’t buy a bucket. Late in the second quarter of Game 4, Atlanta was down 18, starting a 3-1 deficit right in the face and likely a gentleman’s sweep.

But there’s just something different about this team, and it goes further than the talent on the floor. Led by their superstar point guard, Trae Young, they never blink under pressure, even when everything seems to be going against them.

In the second half of Game 4, the Hawks still couldn’t hit open shots — shots they had drained all season. But they kept battling, kept the pressure on defensively, and fought like hell until somehow they found themselves with a lead with under two minutes to go. Atlanta ended up shooting 36.6% from the field and 30% from three that night. Their “big 3” offensively — Young, Bogdanovic, and Collins — combined to shoot 23/65. That’s not a game you are supposed to win against the top-seed in the conference, yet somehow they pulled out a victory on their home floor to even the series at two apiece. That’s not Atlanta sports, at least not the Atlanta sports I’m used to, and it paled in comparison to what we witnessed last night.

On Wednesday, the Hawks didn’t have the benefit of playing at home, and they found themselves in an even deeper hole. They trailed by 22 at the half after scoring just a measly 40 points in what was among the worst halves of basketball they’ve played all season. That lead was stretched even further to begin the third quarter, as the 76ers were up by 26 at one point, and the Hawks really didn’t start to claw back until the very end of the third. Going into the fourth, they were still losing by 18… on the road in an extremely hostile environment with a fan base that is equally as hungry for an Eastern Conference Finals trip as Atlanta. That didn’t matter.

Onyeka Okongwu brought the energy to begin the quarter, and Lou Williams gave the team life. Back-to-back buckets by the two led to a quick 76ers timeout, but the Hawks still trailed by 14 with just over six minutes to go in the game, even with Williams going bonkers, scoring 13 points in the quarter. Then “the run” happened.

A John Collins banked three-pointer cut Philly’s lead to just eight. The teams would trade baskets for the next couple of possessions before the Hack-a-Simmons strategy worked to perfection, leading to an empty possession for the Sixers and a bucket on the other end for Atlanta.

At this point, you could see the frustration in the entire arena — from the fans, to the players, to the coach. Everyone was shaking their heads, almost as if they knew exactly what was going to happen, and it did — just like you see in the movies.

Ice Trae didn’t get his nickname for no reason. He earned it… because the fourth quarter is his time, and he took over down the stretch. Young would score on the following three possessions, turning a six-point deficit into a one-point lead. Gallinari then added to his point total the next time down with a beautiful mid-range jump shot, stretching the lead to three. Seth Curry, who couldn’t miss all game, missed a good look to tie it, and Joel Embiid followed it up on the next possession with two missed free throws to essentially ice what could be the greatest moment in Hawks franchise history.

Here are a few notes showing just how insane the Hawks last two comeback wins have been, courtesy of ESPN:

  • Philadelphia became the only team to lose back-to-back 18-point leads in playoff games in the past 25 seasons.
  • The 22-point halftime deficit the Hawks overcame was the third-largest halftime rally in NBA postseason history.
  • The 76ers were 165-0 in the past 25 seasons when leading by at least 25 points at any point in the game (regular season or playoffs).
  • At one point, Philadelphia had a win probability percentage of 99.7 (the highest it got in Game 4 was 95.5%).


So yeah, Philly fans can say they choked, but choking only happens when a much grittier team puts the pressure on, and the other team folds like a blanket. I’ve said for months that there is just something different about this Hawks team compared to others that have come before them, but it’s more than just that. There’s something different about this Hawks teams compared to every Atlanta sports team we’ve ever seen. They are the antithesis of Atlanta sports; they don’t fold under pressure, they thrive under it, and it starts with Trae Young, who is already making a case to have a statue out of State Farm Arena next to Dominique Wilkins. Sure, the Hawks will be underdogs for the remainder of the playoffs, but they’ve been underdogs all season. At this point, why the hell not us?

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