May be more history to write for these Hawks (updated)

The Hawks’ Paul Millsap drives against the Heat’s Luol Deng during a game earlier this season. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Hawks’ Paul Millsap drives against the Heat’s Luol Deng during a game earlier this season. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

So much has been written of this Hawks storybook season.

Six months ago, who would have imagined the heights the organization has reached? The record book has been altered time and again. The attention of a city has been captured. The national spotlight has shone bright on a franchise — at first exposing a near-crippling controversy and then highlighting the stage of success.

There may be more to come.

“For our organization, for our city, for our players, it’s something that has been great to be a part of,” said Mike Budenholzer, one of the authors of the remarkable narrative in only his second season as head coach. “The way the city has gotten excited, the way everybody has embraced our team and our players because of some (of the records), we are all proud of. It’s been great to be a part of that.”

The Hawks lost their meaningless regular-season finale against the Bulls, 91-85, on Wednesday night to finish with a franchise-record 60 wins. The Hawks rested their starters for the fourth quarter as the Bulls came back from an 18-point deficit. The Hawks are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, something accomplished one other time in Atlanta history. Their opening-round playoff opponent will be the Nets. Game 1 in Atlanta will be Sunday and televised by TNT, the league announced. The Hawks swept the season series with the Nets (4-0), including two wins this month. The Nets earned the final playoff spot with a win over the Magic and a Pacers loss to the Grizzlies Wednesday.

The list of regular-season accomplishments is lengthy:

  • The 60 victories easily eclipsed the franchise mark of 57, set in 1986-87 and 1993-94.
  • The 25 road victories are a record, besting the 22 wins in 1986-87.
  • The 19-game win streak was a franchise best and the fifth-longest streak in NBA history. The run of wins, from Dec. 27-Jan. 31, represented the longest win streak in Atlanta professional sports history.
  • That streak included a perfect month, 17-0 in January, a first in NBA history. The Hawks were rewarded by having all five starters — DeMarre Carroll, Al Horford, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague — named the Player of the Month, another league first.
  • There were 12-game win streaks, one at home and one on the road, both team records.
  • The 13-game win streak against the Eastern Conference is a franchise mark.
  • Consecutive wins against the Bulls, Cavaliers, Rockets, Mavericks and Clippers represented opponents with a .685 winning percentage. It was the highest combined winning percentage of any teams Atlanta had beaten in five consecutive games.
  • Four starters — Horford, Korver, Millsap and Teague — were named the All-Star team. It was the eighth time in history that one team had four All-Stars in a season.
  • They set franchise records with 713,909 in season attendance and 24 sellouts.

And those are just the highlights.

“It means it’s been a great regular season,” Korver said of the success. “It really has been. There have been a lot of really good things that have happened in the city and the organization. We can feel good about 60 wins, but it’s a regular-season accomplishment. We’ll think about those things in a few months. We feel like we are in a good spot. We’ve done what we’ve wanted to do up to this point.”

The chapters on the regular season are closed. The postseason is when the real history will be made. The Hawks have made the postseason eight consecutive years, the longest active streak in the Eastern Conference. However, they have never advanced past the second round, a point of concern and disappointment for the fan base.

The Hawks’ management, coaches and players understand. They have repeated a mantra all season that success will be measured by the postseason. A championship is the goal.

“You can’t get too high on that,” Carroll said of the regular season. “We are preparing for bigger and better things.”

What makes the Hawks’ run more impressive is the firestorm that engulfed the franchise in September. The team and arena are for sale after the discovery of racially insensitive remarks from a 2012 email sent by controlling owner Bruce Levenson. That email was revealed in an internal investigation prompted by comments made by general manager Danny Ferry regarding free-agent target Luol Deng during a June conference call with ownership and management. Ferry has been on an indefinite leave of absence the entire season.

It could have gone south on the Hawks — in a hurry. They started 5-5 and 7-6. They were questioned on whether they were only a .500 team.

They were not.

The Hawks won 33 of their next 35 games, and the re-writing of the record book began.

“It’s definitely special for the Atlanta Hawks organization and our fans,” Horford said. “I’m very proud to be a part of that.”

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