They promised not to go quietly. And they didn't.
The Hawks finally played like a team that wanted to be in this moment. They finally made league MVP LeBron James look mortal and they finally seemed up to the monumental task of battling the NBA's best team to the finish.
It took them three games to get adjusted to the pace set by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but for once, they lived in the moment.
It was just too late to make a difference.
The Cavaliers outlasted the Hawks 84-74 in Game 4 before a sellout crowd of 19,241 Monday night at Philips Arena, sweeping them out of the playoffs and ending their season with a four-game losing streak.
"You show up to the fight like that and who knows, this series goes six or seven games," Hawks swingman Mo Evans said afterward. "It's going to be hard not to wonder what might have been."
After being smashed by a combined 62 points in the first three games, the Hawks went toe-to-toe with the Cavaliers on Monday in an attempt to extend the series and their season for at least a couple more days.
Their three injured starters --- captain and All-Star Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Marvin Williams --- were on the floor at the start, each one playing with an injury that probably would have kept him out other times.
But in the end there was just too much to overcome, particularly with the Cavaliers.
Even on an off shooting night for James (9-for-22 from the floor), he made things difficult for the Hawks .
He didn't come anywhere near his 47-point scoring outburst in Game 3. But he did chase a triple double, finishing with 27 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, finding his wide-open teammates repeatedly for backbreaking shots in the game's final minutes as the Hawks scrambled to cover both James and the open shooters.
"It's frustrating because we know we're more capable than what we showed," Horford said. "The injuries really limited us and impacted the way we played. There's no doubt about that."
The Cavaliers had plenty to do with it as well.
Every time the Hawks made a spirited run --- like they did late in the game behind huge shots from Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Flip Murray and Mike Bibby --- James rallied his troops.
Delonte West and Mo Williams took turns knocking down clutch shots for the Cavaliers late, each one of them holding off a rally when it seemed like the Hawks might be ready to make a push to get all the way back in the game.
With the Hawks chasing in the game's final 90 seconds and down just 79-74, the Cavaliers sealed the game by snagging three offensive rebounds to keep their possession alive. Williams polished it off by draining a deep 3-pointer with 52.1 seconds to play to put the Cavaliers up 82-74.
West finished with 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting, six assists and four rebounds. Williams finished with 12 points, five assists and four rebounds.
"They've got weapons all over the floor," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "As good as he is, and LeBron is one of the best I've seen in 27 years in this league, he doesn't do it alone. And we tried to double him some tonight, and West and Williams and those other guys made us pay for it every time."
Still, the Cavaliers' largest lead all game was just 10 points. The Hawks stayed close despite being smashed on the boards (48-33) for the fourth straight game and shooting just .315 (23-for-73) from the floor.
Smith led the Hawks with 26 points and eight rebounds. Johnson added 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Murray added 14 points as the only other Hawks player to reach double figures. But the final-game effort changed the tone in the Hawks' locker room from defeated before the game to a bit more feisty afterward.
"If I know my guys, this will leave a sour taste in our mouths all summer," Johnson said. "We just have to keep working to get better over the summer and come back next year with a vengeance."
Cleveland wins series 4-0
Game 1: Cavaliers 99, Hawks 72
Game 2: Cavaliers 105, Hawks 85
Game 3: Cavaliers 97, Hawks 82
Monday: Cavaliers 84, Hawks 74