The 2007-08 Atlanta Hawks were on the doorstep on one of the greatest upsets in NBA history and set the franchise up for a decade of success.
The 2007-08 NBA season was the birth of the super team era. The new-look Boston Celtics looked poised to wreak havoc in the Eastern Conference for the next few years. Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers were ready to reclaim their throne atop the NBA and LeBron James was about to take the next step in his storied career.
Amongst all the hullabaloo heading into the season, one thing was for sure, the Atlanta Hawks were not expected to do much. Outside of all-star Joe Johnson, the team was loaded with youngsters like Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Al Horford. When you take a young group with irrelevant bench pieces, another lottery year seemed likely.
To the surprise of many, Atlanta was moderately competitive. Joe Johnson averaged over 20 points per game and was an all-star for the second straight season. The Horford-Smith-Williams trio created a strong supporting cast around Iso Joe. Despite this, the team still stood at an uninspiring 21-28 and a grim chance at the postseason.
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All of a sudden, Mike Bibby happened.
In need of a point guard, the Hawks traded for the Sacramento Kings star and the team’s identity felt different. Atlanta went 16-17 the rest of the way and squeaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed to take on the Celtics.
The first two games were an absolute punch in the mouth for the Hawks as the C’s won by an average of 21 points. It seemed like a sweep was all but certain to happen. However, the momentum shifted when Atlanta won the next two games on their home court. Boston had a problem because an easy matchup turned into an annoyance.
A 25-point win in Game 5 gave the Celtics a 3-2 series lead with the logic that the veteran trio of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett would take care of business and move on to the next round. Atlanta had other plans as they squeaked out a win in Game 6 and forced an improbable Game 7 in Boston. The home team winning streak continued when the Celtics won in convincing fashion en route to a championship.
Despite the loss, the Hawks proved that something good was in the works. This was the groundwork for a nine-year playoff streak and the win totals increased each year under Mike Woodson before he left in 2010. In addition, Joe Johnson continued to show that he was one of the most underrated talents in the history of the NBA and Al Horford became the future face of the franchise.
While lack of depth was their fatal flaw, the Atlanta Hawks were one game away from the biggest upset in NBA history and ending the idea of the modern-day super team.