This was the time for the Hawks to show their youth. For immaturity to set in.
But Josh Smith wasn't buying it last night after he and his Atlanta teammates dropped Game 5 to Boston, 110-85, at TD Banknorth Garden.
"It's not all about 'young,' " Smith said. "Everybody always puts us in the category of being young. We've played enough games in this league to know what we're doing. So we're just going to play."
For a squad on the cusp of elimination after falling behind, 3-2, in its first-round series, the Hawks were still loose in their locker room.
There was never any pressure coming in, Smith said, "And it's still not any pressure on us because everybody picked us to lose."
Hawks coach Mike Woodson still considers this a construction job, and he called winning on the road the last piece. His team is far from winning 50 games in this league, but if the Hawks are ever going to do it, they have to learn how to go into a hostile arena, and play through it.
"We play so well at home and on the road it's like two totally different teams. I don't know what it is," he said. "It might be the focus or the crowd might be getting to us."
He thought the confidence the Hawks had built from their two wins at Philips Arena would erase whatever problems they've previously had on the road. But as soon as they stepped back onto the parquet at the Garden, their bad habits returned.
They weren't getting stops. They weren't getting rebounds. They weren't getting loose balls. They weren't getting bench production.
"Offensively and defensively we're not running our sets and if we do run our sets we're not running them hard," said Joe Johnson, who found himself on the bench with two fouls in the first quarter. "So we're really making it tough on ourselves and this game isn't hard at all."
The series is getting more physical with each game. The veterans, however, are the ones that are supposed to remain cool.
"I wouldn't say we lost our composure," Johnson said. "But it's tough when you feel like things aren't going your way. Tempers tend to fly and you get caught up.
"The physical part, it's no problem," he said. "We deal with that every night . . . You've got two teams trying to advance to the next series, so it's going to go on the whole series. Altercations, [technicals], all that. We ain't backin' down."
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.