The Eastern Conference looked like a two-man race between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat, but after last night, there are now three. Go ahead and include the Atlanta Hawks to the list of teams competing to make the Eastern Conference Finals in the playoffs after their performance against the Heat last night.
The Hawks lost a tough battle to the Heat last night in overtime, but proved to everyone in the NBA that the Hawks are here to contend in the NBA Playoffs this year. In fact, if it wasn’t for multiple bad calls against the Hawks, they would have won the game. With eight seconds left in the fourth quarter, the referee called a foul on DeMarre Carroll on a Ray Allen three-point shot attempt. There was only one problem — after seeing multiple replays, it was clear that Carroll didn’t even touch Allen on his attempt from the three-point line. The Hawks had a three-point lead when the referee made the terrible call, giving the Heat a chance to tie the game with one of the best free throw shooters ever in Allen. Of course, Allen stepped up and hit all three free throws, but how come the Hawks did not get the same call on the other end at the last play of the game? Sorry refs, but if you’re going to call the game tight with eight seconds left, you have to call it tight at the end of the game too. Paul Millsap clearly got fouled on his attempted layup, and it was apparent that the refs swallowed their whistles on the final play. The Hawks got robbed of a win last night, plain and simple.
Despite the heart-breaking defeat to the Heat last night, the Hawks proved to everyone that this team can compete with the best. No one thought the Hawks had a chance to beat the Heat on the road in Miami. The way the game started out, Miami looked like a team about to run away with the game by opening up a 9-0 lead and then having a 14 point lead at one point in the first quarter. Old Atlanta teams would have thrown in the towel and given up right then and there, but not this team. When faced with adversity, this Atlanta team showed resiliency and not only came back to erase the deficit, but went on to take the lead in the second half. The fight and determination the Hawks showed to get back into the game proves that this team will not back down from any challenge. With players such as Jeff Teague, Al Horford and Millsap leading the charge and putting in great performances consistently, this Hawks team has a chance to shock the world come playoff time.
New coach Mike Budenholzer is just the guy to lead the Hawks to greatness, too. His philosophy on offense has made them one of the best in the league, and as the season goes on, the Hawks should only continue to get better. Miami and Indiana better watch out, as the Hawks are not going to make their roads to the Eastern Conference Finals easy. The Hawks are here to compete.