Only time will tell if the Hawks started coasting a bit too early. They fell flat in the final two games of the regular season, and actually lost three straight heading into their first round playoff series against Boston."These games don't matter," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said with a rather cavalier tone. "We accomplished our goal and these last two games, just throw them in the bag and don't even worry about them. We just have to be ready to get up and go for the playoffs."
Hawks coach Mike Woodson wasn't quite as forgiving. Not only is he worried about his team's play of late, he plans on doing whatever he can in practice to cure those ills.
"Now we have to go to work and I've got to try and reprogram these guys and get their minds right," Woodson said. "I don't want to take anything away from what we've done because we've worked our (tails) off to get to this point. But if you're talking about winning a title you have to win 16 games, and they're the hardest 16 games you can ever imagine."
A title is big talk from a team that moon-walked into the postseason with a regular-season record a staggering eight games below .500. But Woodson's focus and that of his team appears to be on something bigger than the end of the regular season.
"We just have to go out there, have fun and everything else will take care of itself," Johnson said. "This is a great opportunity for us as a basketball team and we should cherish it. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so we should just go out there and enjoy it."
HEAT 113, HAWKS 99: The Hawks aren't exactly steaming into the playoffs, having lost their last three regular season games. Wednesday's regular-season finale was an ugly 113-99 defeat at the hands of a Miami team devoid of any of its marquee names outside of Ricky Davis.
The Heat, in fact, finished with the league's worst record at 15-67. But they had more than enough heat left to knock off the Hawks (37-45), who played all of their starters 28 or more minutes.
And crazy as it sounds, Hawks coach Mike Woodson had his starters on the floor with just under three minutes to play, a half-hearted attempt to salvage a game in which they trailed by as many as 16 points.
"We know what's at stake now," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said. "Now the fun starts. I don't have any doubts that we'll all be ready to go for Boston."
Woodson said he would make sure of it with a hard practice Thursday in preparation for the Celtics.
"I don't like the way we played the last two games, and it doesn't matter who plays," Woodson said. "You still have to play the right way and play with some high energy and I don't think we've done the last two things."