Hawks coach Mike Woodson doesn't do subtle.Not where his team is concerned. And certainly not when it comes to the playoffs.
"This being our second straight year in the playoffs, we're not just happy to be here," Woodson said. "We made that push last year against Boston and I know we caught some people by surprise or whatever. And we came back this season playing with a purpose and playing for something.
"We reached one of our goals in getting home court advantage and we'll fall short of another, which was winning 50 games. I'm not just happy to be in it, though, and I don't want my guys thinking about anything other than winning it all."
He might want his team to start with a win over Miami in their first round series. It'll be a tough task with MVP candidate Dwyane Wade leading the Heat.
But as dangerous as he is, the Heat realizes they are dealing with one of the Eastern Conference's toughest teams in the Hawks.
"They're very good at home as well," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "They're long, they're athletic and they challenge everything at the rim. Even when you think you're open, they have so much length and athleticism, they can come out of nowhere and make those easy plays much more difficult.
"Joe Johnson is an All-Star player. Mike Bibby has played in a lot of playoff series in his career. And the rest of the young guys now aren't young. They have a lot of experience under their belt. A lot of confidence."
The Heat will counter with Wade, the NBA's scoring leader this season and one of a handful of stars in the league capable of taking over a series on his own.
He did it three years ago when he led the Heat to the 2006 NBA title and won the NBA Finals MVP.
"Only a fool would underestimate him or his teammates," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said. "We know better. That's the same thing people did with us last year against Boston. They just assumed Boston was going to run us out of the building. But it doesn't work like that in the playoffs."
GRIZZLIES 98, HAWKS 90: Their chance to win 50 games got washed away a week and half ago. So rather than push his starters to the brink in a meaningless game against Memphis Wednesday night, Hawks coach Mike Woodson decided to let the reserves play for a second straight night.
Only this time they weren't able to turn back the opposition, losing 98-90 to the Grizzlies at FedEx Forum. The Hawks had already secured their best season in 11 years, their 47-35 record a full 10 games better than their 37-45 finish from last season.
"We've got a lot more to do yet this season," Woodson said. "The regular season is done and now we can turn our attention to the Heat and the playoffs."
Not before pausing to realize just how much was accomplished already. This stands as the Hawks' finest season since going 50-32 during the 1997-98 season. And they can thank guys like Flip Murray and Mo Evans for the boost. The two veterans combined for 50 points (29 for Murray and 21 for Evans) in the loss to the Grizzlies.
Murray exploded for 18 points in the third quarter alone, 10 from the free throw line, as the Hawks rallied to within three points, 72-69, heading into the fourth quarter.
"I think all of us are ready to get after it in the playoffs," Murray said. "We worked hard to get to this point and now it's time to take it up another notch. Everybody knows what time it is."