Facebook Twitter

NBA: Hawks eliminate Bucks to advance in East

SHARE NBA: Hawks eliminate Bucks to advance in East
Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings drives to the basket as Atlanta's Zaza Pachulia attempts to block his shot during the Hawks' 95-74 win over the Bucks on Sunday.

Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings drives to the basket as Atlanta’s Zaza Pachulia attempts to block his shot during the Hawks’ 95-74 win over the Bucks on Sunday.

John Bazemore, Associated Press

ATLANTA — With more than three minutes to go, the Atlanta Hawks began pulling their starters. Al Horford flapped his hands, egging on the already raucous crowd. Joe Johnson clapped for the fans, then dropped his head in what looked more like relief than celebration.

The Hawks were moving on in the playoffs.

What a contrast from the last game in Atlanta.

After keeping their season alive with a gutty win in Milwaukee, the Hawks made sure the Bucks were in no position to duplicate their improbable Game 5 road win. Playoff rookie Jamal Crawford scored 22 points, Horford put up a double-double and Atlanta pulled away for a 95-74 win Sunday that gave the Hawks a 4-3 triumph in the tougher-than-expected series.

Last Wednesday, the favored Hawks squandered a nine-point lead in the final four minutes, bickered among themselves in the closing seconds and left the court to boos from their own fans, down 3-2 in the series.

This time, nothing but cheers.

"We let 'em down in Game 5," Josh Smith said. "We enjoyed every minute of this."

The Hawks can only hope they didn't expend too much energy in the only first-round series to go the distance.

Third-seeded Atlanta advanced to face No. 2 Orlando in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Magic, who beat the Hawks in three out of four regular-season meetings and have been resting since a sweep of Charlotte last Monday, will host the first two games of the series beginning Tuesday night.

"We've got to be more hungry and determined to get over the hump," Johnson said. "We can't just beat this team based on talent. We've got to play harder."

They could get away with less than 100 percent against the Bucks, whose hopes of a playoff upset were essentially undone with about two weeks to go in the regular season when Andrew Bogut tumbled to the court and ripped apart his right arm.

The 7-foot center was actually in uniform for the final game, but that was a mere formality — he was done for the year, watching with a large cast on his hand.

"We can't think about all the ifs," Carlos Delfino said. "Yes, we missed his presence in the paint. But glory to the guys who kept fighting. We just tried to be as positive as we possibly could."

Not much to be positive about in the season finale. The Bucks made less than a third of their shots (28 of 86), were blocked eight times and, clearly rattled, threw up at least three airballs.