ATLANTA – The Atlanta Hawks spent three miserable years totally rebuilding their team, all with the idea of finally making a big move this season.
Yet, as the All-Star break approached, they were limping along with one of the worst records in the NBA.
Coach Lloyd Pierce was fired. Nate McMillan took over as the interim boss.
Suddenly, the Hawks looked like a totally different team.
It all paid off Wednesday night, when Atlanta clinched its first playoff berth since 2017 by rallying for a 120-116 victory over the Washington Wizards.
“This is what I came down here for, to try to help this team get to the next level,” said McMillan, who figures to get serious consideration for coach of the year honors despite his interim tag. “These guys have stood up and accepted that. I'm just thrilled to death that I can be part of this.”
The Hawks aren't the only newcomer to the playoff scene.
The New York Knicks snapped an even-longer drought, securing their first postseason berth since 2013 when Boston lost in Cleveland.