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Bet on the NBAThe Atlanta Hawks entered the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs as the fifth seed after having a good, although unremarkable, regular season.

The team then went on to face the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs, eliminating the fourth seed in six games to advance. Their victory was the first series upset of the 2011 playoffs, although not the most dramatic series.

The Hawks finished their regular season 44-38, and are widely regarded as one of the more athletic teams in the league. Despite not having a superstar like Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, or Derrick Rose, Atlanta has been a serious threat all season. In the Eastern Conference, their record put them at the top of the second tier. The only other four teams with better records were at least 8 games ahead.

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Atlanta is respectable both on the road and at home. Their home regular season record was 24-17, while they went just under .500 on the road at 20-21. But their road record was better than any other team in the East besides the top four of the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Orlando Magic. In fact, they had won only three fewer games away from home than the Magic.

In their first-round win over Orlando, the Hawks proved that having a superstar is not a requirement to advance to the second round of the playoffs. Dwight Howard had some brilliant performances over the Hawks, but the rest of the Magic team became victims of Atlanta's defense, shooting poorly and allowing the Hawks to take the series.

The Eastern Conference semifinals will be a much greater test for Atlanta, as they will be taking on the top seeded Chicago Bulls, a team which is remarkably strong at home and sports the best defense in the league. This series starts Monday, May 2, in Chicago at the United Center. Can the Hawks continue their upset or at least prolong their postseason run by another six or seven games?

The money line for the Hawks to win the series over the Bulls is +650, indicating that Chicago is heavily favored at -900. By contrast, the Heat are -185 to the Celtics +155, and the Lakers are -370 to the Mavericks +310.

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