The Atlanta Hawks had a really good season. Their fans even thought this might be the first time the team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals since moving to Atlanta.
The Hawks were so sure, they had their flight for game one in Miami scheduled already. But the Bulls had something else in mind.
The writing on the board had neither an asterisk nor room for doubt: “Plane leaves for MIA 2:30 on Tues.”
That was the message in the Hawks’ locker room hours before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Thursday.
The Hawks could canceled that flight at halftime.
The Bulls, not the Hawks, will play Miami in the East finals.
The Bulls ended the series in six games with a punishing 93-73 victory over Atlanta at Philips Arena. They will open the East finals against Miami on Sunday in Chicago.
The Hawks had hoped to return to Chicago that day for Game 7 and put pressure on the top-seeded Bulls.
“It’s disappointing,” Hawks center Al Horford said. “We wanted to keep playing and put ourselves in position to go to the Eastern Conference finals. We had a chance. It’s tough because we felt like we had a good group of guys.”
The Bulls said they were ready to end the series because the Heat were resting while waiting for the winner of this series. Chicago close out the Hawks with a tireless, dominant effort.
Chicago suffocated the Hawks with its trademark defense and sharply exploited Atlanta’s defensive attention to guard Derrick Rose. After taking a 27-15 lead late in the first quarter, the Bulls never let the Hawks get back within 10 points.
The Bulls put away the Hawks with a 6-0 burst early in the fourth quarter, capped by Rose’s fast-break dunk. That basket pushed Chicago’s lead to 76-55 and sent several Hawks fans for the exits.
Atlanta’s unexpected postseason run ended with a whimper.
Poor thangs! There’s always next year, Hawks fans… That is if the owners don’t break up this team which was starting to come together so well on the court.
The Bulls and the Heat will face on in game one of the Easter Conference finals on Sunday at 8:00pm EST.