ATLANTA — The question entering this NBA playoff series wasn’t whether the Hawks were deeper and more skilled than the New York Knicks. The question was whether a young team in its maiden postseason would fizzle in a tight game in the fourth quarter or the first time a forearm connected with its face or when a foul that almost always was called on a Tuesday in late March somehow wasn’t being called two months later against the NBA’s favorite big-market team.

But this isn’t even close.

The Hawks took control of this series by showing a side we couldn’t be certain they had. They’ve responded to every punch or cheap shot or grab or smack talk — and, yes, probably even have taken the lead with that a couple of times.

The Hawks didn’t just win Sunday.



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