Hawks coach Larry Drew served as an assistant on Mike Woodson's staff last season, so he understood the team's style and personality better than an outside hire would have. His tenure as an assistant also means he was around for Atlanta's brutal second-round sweep against the Magic in last season's playoffs, in which the Magic won each game by an average of 25.3 points.
One year later and the Hawks find themselves in a position of strength, not weakness, against Orlando. Atlanta leads the series, 3-1, and can close it out Tuesday night at Amway Center. "We plan on doing that," Drew told 790 The Zone in a radio interview.
Drew has noticed a marked change in the Hawks' attitude this season than in years past. In Sunday's Hawks victory, the Magic went on a 6-1 run in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 76. Orlando had never led in the game, and Atlanta built a 16-point edge in the first half, so Drew called timeout. He explains what he saw:
[T]here was no sense of panic, there was nobody in the huddle showing any signs that we were going to let it get away. I think that’s a big sign, particularly in the playoffs, for this club because we’re not an old team, but we’re not a young team either.
The Hawks responded with an 8-1 run of their own over the next four minutes, helping to put the game very nearly on ice. The Magic had a chance to send the game to overtime on the final possession of the fourth quarter, but Al Horford's defense against Hedo Turkoglu forced the Orlando small forward to miss a wild three-pointer.
In terms of personnel, this Hawks team isn't drastically different than Woodson's of a year ago. Kirk Hinrich replaced Mike Bibby at point guard, and Drew has found Jason Collins more useful than Woodson did. Marvin Williams' role has diminished. But at its core, this is the same team. That it has developed confidence enough to be on the verge of upsetting an opponent which unceremoniously ended its last postseason attests to Drew's leadership, though Jamal Crawford averaging 24 points in 31 minutes and shooting 56.5 percent from three-point range certainly has something to do with the 3-1 lead as well.