Somewhere, either Atlanta or Boston, either Saturday or Sunday, the NBA PLayoffs will begin for the Hawks and Celtics.
We know the teams will meet. Every other detail will be hashed out by Thursday night/Friday morning.
The Hawks have qualified for the post-season for a fifth consecutive season. It’s the third longest streak of consecutive playoff appearances for the Hawks since the franchise relocated from St. Louis in 1968.
The up and coming playoff series with the Celtics marks the 11th time in Hawks franchise history that they have faced the Celts.
Three series standout.
In the late 50s and early 60s, the Hawks and Celtics were seemingly annual combatants in the NBA Finals. The Hawks were a Western Conference power, led by Hall of Famer Bob Pettit. The Hawks and Celtics met in the NBA Finals four times in a five year span, with the Hawks breaking thru to win in 1958.
That season, the Celtics had home court advantage. But St. Louis broke thru with road wins in games one and five, setting the stage for a dramatic Game Six at Kiel Auditorium.
Pettit was sensational! He scored 50 points against Boston, as the Hawks prevailed, 110-109 to win the World Championship. That scoring mark still stands to this day as the most points ever scored by a player in a Finals clinching game.
The Hawks and Celtics also met four times during the Dominique Wilkins era. The most famous of these meetings occurred in 1988.
It was an Eastern Conference semi-final series. Boston, once again, had home court. But the Hawks came up big in the old Boston Garden. On May 18th that year, the Hawks travel to Beantown for Game Five with the series tied at 2-2. The Hawks won 112-104, then headed back to the Omni for Game Six.
The Celts won here 102-100, setting the stage for one of the great playoff shootouts in the history of professional basketball.
Nique and Larry Bird engaged in a back and forth score-a-thon that, 24 years later, on a spring Sunday afternoon, fans still talk about and watch on line.
Wilkins scored 47 for the day, but what made the game so compelling was the fourth quarter when Bird erupted, and the two Hall of Famers matched each other hoop for hoop.
Bird scored 20 of his 34 in the final period, as the Celtics won, 118-116.
The irony of it all: the Hawks point guard that day was current Boston head coach Doc Rivers. Doc had 16 points and 18 assists in that game before fouling out. To this day, Doc has not watched a tape of that game from start to finish. Too painful.
Fast forward 20 years to the last Hawks-Celtics matchup. In 2008, the Celtics were on their way to a World Championship. The Hawks barely qualified, earning the eighth playoff position, despite a losing record.
After two Boston blowouts, the pundits were predicting a four-game sweep. But the Hawks somehow caught fire at home. Games Three and Four saw Philips Arena explode with excitement, as the Hawks rallied for two wins to even the series. In game four, Joe Johnson scored 20 of his playoff career high 35 in the final period in a 97-92 victory.
Boston won Game five yet the same story unfolded in Game Six, with the Hawks holding series here in another thrilling game with another raucous crowd at full throat at the Highlight Factory. Boston won the series at home in Game Seven.
Even in defeat, the Hawks gained confidence that they belonged, and have carried that thru to five consecutive playoff berths. The Hawks, Lakers, and Celtics are the only teams to advance to the second round in the last four consecutive seasons.