BOSTON — Hello from Boston, where the Hawks are two wins away from exorcising the Celtics’ demon from their playoff history. But assume nothing tonight.
The Hawks lead their first-round series 2-0. They are 0-7 in postseason series against Boston since moving to Atlanta and 1-10 all-time going back to St. Louis days (the only win coming in the 1958 finals). Many believe the Hawks won’t go as deep into the playoffs as a year ago, not because they’re less of a team but because their the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, which means they likely would face Cleveland in the second round and not the third.
Sweeping Boston would help their cause. Injury and fatigue down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs played a role in the Eastern Conference finals loss to Cleveland last year. This year’s team is healthier and looked better later in the year.
So what’s the Hawks chance of sweeping? History suggests: not good. They have never swept a best-of-seven series. This is only the sixth time in franchise history they’ve led a best-of-seven series 2-0, and they’ve lost Game 3 four of the five previous times (though in all five case they won the series):
- 1958: St. Louis lost Game 3 of the West finals to Detroit but won the series 4-1.
- 1969: Hawks lost Games 3 and 4 of the West semis to San Diego but won the series 4-2.
- 1970: Hawks won Game 3 of the West semis to Chicago and won the series 4-1.
- 2010: Hawks blew a 2-0 lead over Milwaukee in the first round, losing the next three before coming back to win two games and the series 4-3.
- 2015: Less you forget, Hawks blew a 2-0 lead over Brooklyn last year’s first round, losing two games on the road before eliminating the Nets in six games, 4-2.
Asked following the morning shoot-around if he was concerned about a letdown, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said, “Coaches worry about everything. But our group is a pretty mature group. They’ve played on the road, they know they have to be able to win on the road. Hopefully those characteristics will help shield against that.”
A short series helps the Hawks moving forward. But center Al Horford said, “We’re not in that position yet.” And a sweep would be a first.
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