Unlike the Boston Celtics the Atlanta Hawks don't have a lot of postseason success in the team's history that conjures memories of solid performances in big games. In fact if the Hawks can pull out a win in Game 6 Thursday night it could be one of the biggest wins that the franchise has enjoyed since moving from St. Louis to Atlanta. After falling behind 3-1 in the series few will be picking the Hawks to prevail on Boston's home floor. Still the opportunity is there and it isn't one that the franchise has enjoyed very often throughout its history.
Speaking of history, lets take a moment and look back at some of the Atlanta Hawks biggest playoff wins in chronological order.
April 24, 1979 - Game 5 Eastern Conference Semis - Atlanta Hawks 107 Washington Bullets 103
The 1979 Atlanta Hawks were coached by Hubie Brown and led by John Drew, Eddie Johnson and Dan Roundfield. Atlanta finished with a 46-36 record during the regular season which was good enough for third place in the Central Division. After dispatching Houston in the first round the Hawks were locked into a back and forth series with the Bullets who would go on to lose to Lenny Wilkens led Seattle in the NBA Finals.
After falling in double overtime in Game 4 Atlanta responded with a 107-103 win in Game 5 on the road while facing elimination. They pulled out the victory despite John Drew hurting and both Eddie Johnson and Tree Rollins nursing injuries of their own. Atlanta went on to win Game 6 at home before missing out on the Eastern Conference Finals with a loss in Game 7.
May 18, 1988 - Game 5 Eastern Conference Semis - Atlanta Hawks 112, Boston Celtics 104
Perhaps the signature win for the Dominique Wilkins led teams was the Game 5 victory over the Celtics at the Boston Garden where they never seemed to lose. Atlanta outscored the Celtics 43-27 in the fourth quarter to steal the victory. Kevin Willis led the way with 27 points and 14 rebounds while Doc Rivers added 21 points and seven assists. Dominique finished with 25. Atlanta would disappoint with a Game 6 loss at the Omni which set the stage for the shootout between Wilkins and Larry Bird back in the Garden for Game 7.
May 5, 1996 - Game 5 Eastern Conference First Round - Atlanta Hawks 89, Indiana Pacers 87
The Hawks upset Larry Brown's Pacers team in the first round of the playoffs surviving a 29 point outburst from Reggie Miller. Mookie Blaylock hit five threes on his way to 23 points while Steve Smith added 17. Christian Laettner finished with 15 points and 11 boards. Atlanta would go on to lose in the second round 4-1 to the Orlando Magic.
May 8, 1997 - Game 2 Eastern Conference Semis - Atlanta Hawks 103, Chicago Bulls 95
Hard to believe a lone victory in a 4-1 series loss makes this list but the fact that it came against a 69 win Bulls team that went on to win the championship and happened in Chicago provide it with extra points. Steve Smith scored 27 points and Mookie Blaylock hit eight of nine three point attempts for 26 points as the Hawks pulled the upset over Jordan's Bulls in Chicago. Atlanta put up a fight early in Game 3 but were not much of a match for the Bulls in the rest of the series.
May 3, 2009 - Game 7 Eastern Conference First Round - Atlanta Hawks 91, Miami Heat 78
Joe Johnson scored 27 points and hit 6 of 8 from beyond-the-arc to help lead the Atlanta Hawks to their first playoff series win since the 1999 season. Atlanta defeated the Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat by a score of 91-78. Josh Smith added 21 points and Mike Bibby 11 for Atlanta. This was the Hawks second straight trip to the playoffs under Mike Woodson after taking the eventual NBA Champion Celtics to seven games the year before.
Out of all of these wins, Game 5 of the 1988 series was probably the biggest because it might have been the closest that Atlanta came to ever reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. That victory set up a return home where the Hawks could have closed out the Celtics which is somewhat eerily similar to the exact situation they are facing this time around.