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The Hawks make the playoffs. Should make it count - Johnny Jackson

I watched the Atlanta Hawks lie down last week, and I have mixed feelings about it.

Mike Bibby played 17 minutes in the first half of the team's final home game of the regular season. Al Horford gave 26 minutes and Joe Johnson gamed about 24 minutes.

The Hawks have a losing record with 37 wins and 44 losses - not too far from the division's standard, excluding the Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, and the Orlando Magic, who took Tuesday night's victory over the Hawks.

But this, as I understand, is the first playoff for the franchise in nearly a decade. It is also the first playoff berth for a major professional sports team in Atlanta in the past two years.

The one understandable thing about Tuesday night's game was that the team was already in the playoffs. Logically, what fan wants players on his or her team to suffer injury in a game that meant little to the whole, jeopardizing the team's chances to go far in the playoffs?

For that, the team should take the final minutes of the game easily, right?

On the other hand, it is a game like any other, magnified by two facts - it was the last home game of the season, and it was a game against another playoff contender.

You also have to consider the odds of the Hawks making it deep into the playoffs to contend for the championship. And thirdly, is the fact that fans paid to attend that final game and deserved to see all-out play - sellout crowd or not.

Atlanta lost that final home game, 105- 121, against an unrelenting Orlando team. The final few minutes of the game was, to say the least, discouraging. So much so, I am surprised the team kept the game as close as it ended up being.

It seemed to me that the team conceded the game in the final quarter in favor of its impending playoff berth. I did not like to see it, though I understood it.

For Atlanta's extended season, here is what I would like to see: all-out basketball that I can write home about -- win or lose.

The team plays its second playoff game against the Goliath of the National Basketball Association, the Celtics, in Boston, on Wednesday and returns to Atlanta on Saturday.

I am ready to see that hard-fought game I apparently missed last week in that final home game, and I am excited to see the Hawks slay the mighty dragon in the playoff opportunity for which this town has been waiting.

Johnny Jackson is the education reporter for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at jjackson@henryherald.com or at (770) 957-9161.