Shadow of Atlanta sports failures hangs over Hawks’ bid to take down Knicks

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ATLANTA — The Hawks are trying to buck history. They’ll take a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 of their first-round matchup with the Knicks, and seem to have all the momentum in the world. Funny thing about Atlanta and momentum, though. It doesn’t always work out.

(And no, I won’t be mean and mention 28-3 … Oh. Wait. I just did …)

Yes. The historic gag against the Patriots in Super Bowl LI might have been the most epic of all of Atlanta’s sporting disappointments but … well, it doesn’t sit alone on a shelf. The Braves once made 14 straight playoff appearances, and won one World Series. Last year the Braves had the Dodgers buried, down 3-1 in the NLCS … couldn’t finish that deal, either.

The Hawks have had plenty of games as a higher-ranked seed. Atlanta had, and lost, two NHL teams, which might be just as well when you consider the Flames (now in Calgary) and Thrashers (now in Winnipeg) were 2-19 all-time in playoff games.

Lots of Atlanta fans are also big fans of the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Ask them their fondest memories of the 2018 College Football Playoff. (Hint: there aren’t any. Georgia led 13-0 at the half. The Bulldogs lost 26-23 in overtime when freshman Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hit wideout DeVonta Smith on a 41-yard TD pass — on second-and-25, no less.)

Since the Braves made Atlanta a big league city in April 1966 (the Falcons followed in September, the Hawks came in 1968, the Flames in 1972 and the Thrashers in 1999) they have gone 1-for-182 — as in 182 seasons in MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL, with one title — and that in a strike-shortened, 144-game 1995 baseball season.

New York has contributed plenty to the misery.

Before this Knicks-Hawks series, New York and Atlanta squared off 10 times in postseasons. Atlanta won just twice. One was the NLCS in 1999 (though the Mets did make a spirited run at becoming the first team to come back from an 0-3 best-of-seven deficit before both John Franco and Armando Benitez blew saves in Game 6, and Kenny Rogers couldn’t throw a strike to Andruw Jones). The other was the 2015 Hawks (winners of 60 games and top seed in the East), who slipped by the eighth-seeded Nets (38-44) in six games.

(And admit it: Unless your name is either Evan Roberts, Ian Eagle or Lionel Hollins, you have exactly zero recollection of THAT series.)

Beyond that? Well, from the Southern perspective, it ain’t pretty.

The Braves were the stepping stones for the ’69 Mets, who swept the NLCS 3-0 and outscored them 27-15. They were the stepping stones (and more) for the Dynasty Boys Yankees, who routed them four straight (after spotting them a 2-0 lead) in the 1996 World Series, including an epic comeback from down 6-0 in Game 4. Three years later, fresh after escaping the Mets, the Braves were mowed down by the Yankees in a four-game whitewash, outscored 21-9 — the Yankees getting the best of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz along the way.

Basketball? Well, before this season, the Knicks had their way with Atlanta, crushing the Pistol Pete-led ’71 Hawks, 4-1, in the Eastern semifinals and doing likewise to the ’99 Hawks, led by Steve Smith, sweeping them 4-0 on their way to the NBA Finals.

Football? The one breathe-easy game in both of the Giants’ most recent Super Bowl triumphs came in the 2011 wild-card game, when Big Blue destroyed the Falcons, 24-2, in the first playoff game at MetLife Stadium (no wonder Jets fans were so eager to take a crack at the ’98 Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII, if only they could’ve survived the Broncos in the AFC title game).

Hockey? The Rangers made quick 3-1 work of the Flames in a first-round series in 1980, and in fact the 5-2 win that closed out Game 4 was the last Flames game ever played in Atlanta before they were sold and shipped to Calgary. And in 2007, the Rangers won the only four playoff games the Thrashers ever played before they were transferred to Winnipeg four years later.

(Atlanta has been kind to Canada; two-sevenths of all Canadian NHL teams began their lives in the Gate City!)

Maybe the Hawks can escape that shadow. If they can, more power to them.

Vac’s Whacks

I’m not sure which is more surprising to me at this point: when Gerrit Cole doesn’t get a swing and a miss against his best fastball, or when Kevin Durant misses, from anywhere on a basketball floor.

The Post is a family, and when one of our own is hurting we all hurt. Billy Connors, cousin of ace Post copy editor Rob, is a teacher and coach (softball, girls soccer) at Weehawken High. He is recovering from a massive stroke and is facing some staggering medical bills. If you might be interested in assisting, please visit https://au.gofundme.com/f/help-billy-coach-connors-and-family.

This is great: Strat-O-Matic will not only donate 10 percent of net sales on June 2 — the 80th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s death from ALS — but will also, starting Monday, release three simulations by its research team: an extension of Gehrig’s career past 1939 (when he was forced to retire); a home run derby between Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris; and a contest featuring all-time stars who also wore Gehrig’s famed No. 4.

What kind of helpful transportation can Coach Saleh expect once he actually wins a football game? Helicopter service to Yankees games? A private jitney to Saratoga?

Whack Back at Vac

Stephanie Gaitley: Here is my hoops take on Mare from “Mare of Easttown”: The Rams would have recruited her in a second. You can’t go wrong with a super tough guard from Philly! Geno can go all over to get his players. Mare would have fit right into our culture!

Vac: And there you go, the scouting report straight from the Fordham women’s basketball coach with the .644 winning percentage in 10 years at Rose Hill.

Manus Clancy: Would we be giving Francisco Lindor too much credit if we called him a poor man’s Jason Bay?

Vac: Can a man qualify as a poor-man’s anything at $341 million?

@brianhummel76: Knicks need a Batman. Julius Randle is a Robin. A very good Robin, but he can’t carry a team on his back. Hoping for a bounce-back in Game 4.

@MikeVacc: What was already the most intriguing question on Leon Rose’s to-do list — what to do about Randle — gets more and more intriguing by the day.

Richard Siegelman: Babe Ruth’s highest batting average ever was .393, while his lowest ERA was 1.75. Great stats, but they pale in comparison to Jacob deGrom’s current .471 and 0.80!

Vac: Only in baseball can a guy who looks like deGrom and who looked like the Bambino be compared … and it makes perfect sense!

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