You can’t take anything away from these Hawks

Nate McMillan

At this point, as a Hawks fan, I’m used to it. The national media continues to be proven wrong, and like clockwork, they continue to move the goalposts for why this run isn’t legit. In the first round, the Knicks went from the favorites to the worst team in the NBA, apparently. At least that’s the way they were talked about following the season. In the second round, it wasn’t the deeper, more composed team pulling out the win over an ultra-talented top-seed in the Philadelphia 76ers; it was Ben Simmons can’t play, the Sixers are chokers, and Joel Embiid had a torn meniscus even though he averaged like 40 per game… must have felt terrible. Now, in the Eastern Conference Finals, the national media is already generating the narrative for when the Hawks win.

Check this out from Chris Broussard, who should probably just go ahead and retired after this.

Of course, what Broussard says makes absolutely no sense. If he had said something along the lines of, “Yeah, because of all the teams that have dealt with injuries, there will be people who look back on this season and think about those injuries rather than the champions.” I understand if you believe a healthy Nets, Lakers, or Clippers team could have won the NBA Finals. However, singling out the Hawks as the primary benefactors from all of these injuries is just blatant oversight, and frankly, a 100% false statement. In fact, of the three teams remaining in the playoffs, the Hawks are the ONLY ones not to benefit from injuries, while the other two teams may not be around if not for players missing games.

The Knicks series is the only time the Hawks had the injury advantage, and it was a slight one. The Hawks were pretty much at full strength outside of Cam Reddish, and the Knicks were only without Mitchell Robinson. But I think we can all agree Robinson wasn’t changing the outcome of that series.

The Sixers had a scare with Joel Embiid, but the guy averaged over 30 points and 10 rebounds for the series. Outside of some poor conditioning, which is really more of his own fault, there was nothing more that he could’ve done. Meanwhile, the Hawks lost De’Andre Hunter — one of their leading scorers and best perimeter defender — for the entire series with a torn meniscus. I don’t want to hear any excuses from Philly fans.

The Eastern Conference Finals is the first time the Hawks could potentially benefit from an injured player. Giannis Antetokounmpo is listed as doubtful for tonight’s game, and after seeing the video several times, I would be pretty shocked if he returned during this series. I’m sure that’s not how the Hawks want to win, but it’s not like they haven’t been dealing with injury issues of their own.

Atlanta is still without De’Andre Hunter; Bogdan Bogdanovic was a shell of himself for the first three games of the series because of a knee injury he suffered in Game 6 against the 76ers, and Trae Young didn’t even play in Game 4 after suffering an ankle injury in the third quarter of Game 3. So, I don’t want to hear any excuses if the Hawks win. They went toe-to-toe with a Bucks team at full strength for four games and won two of them. Hell, if Young doesn’t step on the referee’s foot in Game 3, the Hawks might find themselves up 3-1. If anything, the other two teams remaining should be in the asterisk conversation if they win the championship.

The Suns haven’t beat a team yet in these playoffs that weren’t dealing with a significant injury. The Lakers were without Anthony Davis; the Nuggets didn’t have Jamal Murray, and the Clippers didn’t have Kawhi Leonard. The Bucks have been equally as fortunate in their last two series. They beat a hobbled Nets team missing Kyrie Irving and James Harden, and if they somehow pull out a series victory over the Hawks, they will have beaten a team with three starters — Young, Hunter, and Bogdanovic — dealing with injuries.

There’s no denying injuries have affected these playoffs, opening the door for several underdogs to win the title, but you can’t single out the Hawks. They’ve been bit by the injury bug as much as anyone and have kept on chugging. If Atlanta wins the title, it’s because they are the deepest, most well-coached, and composed team. You can’t put an asterisk on that.

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