Forget about them all you want.
Disrespect them all you want.
Ignore them even, it doesn't matter.
The Hawks welcome the non-believers. In fact, they relish playing that role for anyone willing to discount them the way they've been overlooked this season.
Few people gave them a chance to knock off the Orlando Magic in their first-round series, yet here they stand, headed to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the third straight season.
The Chicago Bulls, top seed in the Eastern Conference and the entire league, will serve as the Hawks' dance partners this time around.
But before the Hawks go there they had to take a moment to reflect on the blatant disrespect they insist they were shown by the Magic. Jameer Nelson joked with Derrick Rose during a late season game that he'd see him in the second round of the playoffs, assuming that bouncing the Hawks from the postseason for a second straight year would be a formality.
Ultimately, it was not. In fact, it was nothing of the sort. The Hawks took the upper hand from the start, winning Game 1 in Orlando, and then finished them off at home in Game 6 Thursday night.
It was a wild night, one where the Hawks found the resolve to beat back the team that humiliated them a year earlier in the conference semifinals.
"It was very emotional. This is a very hard-fought series," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "Coming into this series, not many people gave us a chance. A lot of people thought what we accomplished against this team in the regular season that it was a fluke. But our guys came in to the series thinking they could win the series."
The only question that remains is, can they win the next one?
HAWKS 84, MAGIC 81: Joe Johnson finally lived up to his own expectations, delivering the knockout blow to the Orlando Magic on the big stage in the deciding Game 6 of the first-round playoff series in which the No. 5 Hawks upset the No. 4 Magic to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Johnson remembered the way the Magic routed the Hawks last year, four straight by an average of 25 or more points, the largest margin in NBA playoff history. But not this time. Not with the Hawks in control and up 3-2 in the series with a chance to close out their division rivals. Johnson scored a team-high 23 points and grabbed a huge offensive rebound late to preserve the win for the Hawks. It was his breakout playoff moment, redemption of sorts for his failed effort a year ago against this same Magic team. "I think our will toward the end (made the difference) when they closed the gap," Johnson said. "They were down one. Our will to come up with the loose ball, come up with the big plays down the stretch was big."
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