The Hawks open the playoffs facing two elimination games

ExploreHistoric regular season for Trae Young

That they dropped Games 5 and 6 only whetted the market’s appetite for more and better. This regular season didn’t satisfy that craving, not that regular seasons do. As the playoffs commence, we’re not sure what to make of the Hawks. Are they still the team of June 2021? If not, why not? Aren’t good young teams supposed to get better with time?

Young is great. Clint Capela hasn’t been quite as good this time around. Due to injuries, John Collins hasn’t played in a month. Timothe Luwawu-Caborrot, working for his fifth team over six seasons, has become a starter. This remains a deep and skilled roster, but these Hawks have seldom appeared as irresistible as they did over those giddy weeks last summer.

It’s possible the Hawks treated the past 82 games the way demonstrably good NBA teams do – with measured disdain. You can’t win anything of consequence until the playoffs start. Once they do, nobody cares how good you were or weren’t over the first 82. The Hawks were in no peril of falling off the expanded playoff grid. The final spread between them and the East’s top non-qualifier was six games.

For anything good to happen, they must beat Charlotte here Wednesday. They should. Their next assignment will a road date with the loser of the Nets-Cavaliers 7-vs.-8 game. The Hawks would rather not play Brooklyn in Brooklyn, though they…

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