Celtic green is an awful color. I’ve spent years hating it, despising it, and abhorring it every time I see it in all its filth on the basketball court. I’ve taught myself to hate it through some history lessons, and more importantly, through the very Hawks pulse that keeps my fandom beating. There’s too much history between these franchises, too much one-sided hatred for me to objectively watch this game on Wednesday and applaud after a good Boston play. They’ve torn this Hawks franchise to shreds time and time again, and for once, I want it to end.
Look back to the early days of the NBA when the Hawks resided in Saint Louis. We won our lone championship over the Celtics in 1958, but that’s about it. With Bob Pettit, one of the greatest power forwards of all time, we won one championship in a period that featured maybe 10 memorable players. One. Those Hawks teams should have won at least three, but they didn’t. We won one, and that’s an awful shame. We had four cracks at it, all against the Celtics, and our only title (in 1958) came in a clinching game 6 in which Bill Russell didn’t even play. To be honest, I don’t want that trophy, keep it in Saint Louis. We didn’t really beat the Celtics. We beat a shell of that team.
I wasn’t alive during that period, and if I was, well the first thing I’d do is ask for a cane before I dragged myself out of bed. I’m happy I didn’t watch those games, but I’m not happy we didn’t beat the Celtics at their peak and stop arguably the most dominant sports dynasty in history. I’m not happy that I wasn’t alive for most of the Dominique years, missing those highlight filled onslaughts tears me apart, and I’m sure as hell not happy I missed those 80s playoff series. The year that Doc and ‘Nique thought it was going to be their year was 1988. They thought that was going to be the year they brought glory to Atlanta. Who’d they play in the second round? The Celtics. Despite arguably the greatest scoring performance in playoff history, ‘Nique couldn’t will us to victory. If 47 points wasn’t going to get it done, and 16 assists from Doc wasn’t enough of a boost, than nothing was. Lastly came the most recent slap in the face, an expected one, but one that sent Boston a message. The eight seed verse the one seed, a typical lack of hoopla. All of that animosity built up to a “hey, lets win just one game” mentality. One game? We won three and took the eventual NBA champions to seven games. I don’t believe in moral victories, but if there ever was one, that was sure as hell an example. I felt like we won, even though we got romped by 30+ in Game 7.
So we’re playing them on Wednesday night, and the most exciting thing to me is that we just might get a first round matchup with them. Yes, please. This Hawks team has been the symbol of mediocrity in the NBA, but that won’t matter if we send those little leprechauns back to Boston with their heads drooped below their shoulders after a good playoff series. I’m aware that Atlanta is the little brother, but I’m also aware that we could beat this Boston team in a seven game series. We’ll get a good look at ourselves on Wednesday, and another one about nine days after that when Boston comes to Philips for a nationally televised game on a Friday.
Still, to me, this is just a precursor for a feisty post season matchup. Regardless of the seed we draw at this point, it looks like we’re facing a rival. I don’t see us falling below that five spot, and if we’re there (which is most likely where we’ll be), we’ll get Boston. If we jump Indiana for the three seed, we’ll get Orlando, and well, we know how we’ve done against them the last few times around the block (It’s always good to see Orlando is coming to town when you’re slumping. Always a pick-me-up game!). I don’t want Orlando, though. I want the higher seed, yeah, but I’d rather play Boston. I’d rather get a shot at revenge, even though nothing can atone for the beat downs they’ve given us post season after post season. This isn’t a mutualistic rivalry, it’s a parasitic relationship in which they suck the life out of this Atlanta franchise, at least historically.
So, please Atlanta, come out strong in this one. Getting blown out is all too common after last year, and this weird formula that makes no sense that we currently have has us somehow winning games. Josh Smith needs to be Josh Smith– whatever that is (although I’d like an electric collar for every three pointer he shoots). Joe Johnson needs to be the million dollar man, he needs to play like it’s 2008 and drop 20 in the fourth quarter to bury these fools. We need to beat Boston, not for basketball reasons, but for breathing room. I never liked it when my big brothers punched me in the arm, and thats what its like every time we see Boston in the post season. Hopefully we’re lucky enough to get a hard-fought preview on Wednesday night. If we’re really lucky, Zaza will do his weird, chicken-peck headbutt thing on KG again.