At least the Hawks had their moment in the sun last year, what with the four All Stars and perfect January and trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. That team was fresh and exciting. Kyle Korver carried rocks underwater to train during the offseason! Dennis Schroder did kickflips into the hearts of America! Jeff Teague was...Jeff Teague!

Sadly, the shine has worn off, and the Hawks are back to being the same old boring ass Hawks. They’re in the second tier of Eastern Conference playoff teams, and another first or second round exit is all but inevitable. Not even Schroder bleaching his number into the back of his head could save them. Seriously, their biggest story is that they are playing massive games of Uno on the team plane. What, a Risk board was too expensive?

But hey, boring wins basketball games, just ask the Spurs of old. The Hawks did nothing flashy, only executed their gameplan and handed the Blazers a 104-98 defeat.

What a weird all around game. There wasn’t much back and forth, just a bunch of extended runs from each team. The Blazers opened things up with an 11-4 run, highlighted by a couple of Mason Plumlee dunks and some solid Noah Vonleh minutes that included both a made three (!) and a nice block at the rim (!!).

After a quick Atlanta timeout, the Hawks answered with a 19-3 run to end the quarter. The Blazers missed their final nine shots in the frame, and after starting 8-12 from the floor, went just 1 for their next 18. I’m no math wizard, is 1-18 bad? Luckily the Hawks weren’t able to blow things wide open—their largest of the game was just 13, but it should have been 50 with the way the Blazers were shooting early.

But Portland ripped off a couple of runs of their own—a little 9-0 spurt here, a 7-0 spurt there. Al-Farouq Aminu hit some timely buckets, Ed Davis did his usual cleanup work on the offensive glass, and CJ McCollum scored enough in the second to keep things close.

When Lillard had to sit midway through the third with foul trouble, McCollum did the heavy lifting. CJ was on fire from mid-range, and capped the quarter off with a well-contested fadeaway that had no business going in. After the make, he skipped up the court with a couple of high-steps and implored the crowd to get into it.

Lillard, whose shot had been off all night, found a brief groove in the fourth. After a no-call on a drive to the hoop, Dame answered with an angry pull up from deep around a screen. He was able to knock down the triple and pick up a foul in the process, and the four-point play tied things up for the first time since early in the first. That stretch included threes from Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard, and the Blazers ripped off a 12-0 run to gain a five-point advantage.

Support The Portland Mercury

But yet again, there were the Hawks. After another timeout, Atlanta answered with an 8-0 run of their own to go back up by three, and they wouldn’t trail the rest of the way. Bazemore couldn’t miss from distance and uncorked a couple of quick transition threes, Teague was a coiled spring on his drives to the hoop, Paul Millsap did quiet Paul Millsap things, and both Korver and Al Horford hit a couple of huge daggers.

Again, nothing flashy. No big scorers, nothing for the highlight reel, just a collection of players knowing their roles and playing within them. With the game on the line late, that slow and steady approach was enough to topple the Blazers. Chalk it up to yet another close game Portland couldn’t close.

Thanks to a Jazz loss earlier in the day, the Blazers held on tight to the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff hunt for a few brief, shining hours. This loss bumped them back into the lottery. So much for that beautiful eighth seed.