This time

It was set up. Leading 92-75 with 6:50 remaining, the Hawks, for just a moment, wanted to crumble, to return to the 6-game losing streak at the end of the season, to remind everyone of their sub-.500 road record, to replay the historically one-sided sweep by the Magic last season. But then the shots that had been falling all night[1] went down again.

After allowing the Magic an 8-0 run to make it 92-83, Joe Johnson hit a 6-foot jumper in traffic. It was the kind of shot he hit when he was a franchise savior. When Hawks fans still expected him to hit the big shot and not curl up. Joe Johnson may be the only person to get paid an average of $20 some-odd million per year to do something, and then appear to doubt his ability to do that thing. This night, at this time, Joe Johnson stanched the run and reminded Hawks fans he earned the extension.

Atlanta went on to win the game 103-93 Saturday night after keeping the Magic at a safe distance.[2] The Hawks won the season series 3-1, but going into the series, and really for the past month-and-a-half since pundits realized the Knicks weren’t going to catch Atlanta for the 5-seed, the Magic-Bulls matchup has been on the schedule. The Hawks were professionally incensed when Orlando PG Jameer Nelson told Chicago’s Derrick Rose, “Catch you in the second round,” at the end of the Bulls’ win over the Magic last Sunday.

Now the question for the Hawks is can they do it three more times? The guards played maybe their best game of the season, certainly since Hinrich came over. The trio of Jason Collins,[3] Zaza Pachulia and Etan Thomas were completely unable to control or slow down Dwight Howard, but they did keep him away from Al Horford who scored 16 on 7-14 shooting.

Given the recent history of the Hawks, it’s logical to say the shooters will return to Earth, Stan Van Gundy will make the adjustments to confound Larry Drew’s revolutionary offense and the Magic will be roundly cheered in the Highlight Factory. But they only need three more wins. They only have to win the home games. Joe is back at the 25 per-game level. We were 6-14 from three. Everybody on the team that took more than two shots shot 50 per cent or better. And if they do win they’ve got an inexperienced Bulls team. And I mean, it must be pointed out that this is perhaps the Hawks’ best chance to get to a Conf—

Whoa. See what they make you do.

[1] And they fell at too high a rate to give me any hope going forward. More later.

[2] The closest margin in the 4th quarter occurred when the Magic closed it to eight with 2 minutes left.

[3] Who fouled out in the 4th after scoring one point and grabbing no rebound, the box score would tell you shooting 50 per cent from the line and a single steal were the only positive things he did.


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