Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 5/11/12

You knew it would end this way, in heartbreaking and totally unpredictable fashion, with what could be their fifth and final season with their core group intact.

The Hawks couldn't have it any other way.

They exited the playoffs with their reputation intact. They are still 'Team Chaos', the crew that simply can't seem to do the right thing at the right time, the crew that always finds a way to pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Hawks did exactly that in their Game 6 loss to the Celtics Thursday night, losing 83-80 in the final seconds in their attempt to stave off elimination and force a Game 7 on their home floor.

Their exit was hastened by a throwback performance by Celtics' star Kevin Garnett, whose 28 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and three steals looked like a performance from 2008 or earlier.

Not bad for a player called the "dirtiest in the league" by Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon on the eve of the biggest game of the season for both teams.

Garnett responded by making Gearon's team eat his words.

"Thanks for giving me extra juice (Thursday)," Garnett said. "Next time he opens his mouth, he should know what he's talking about... (dirty), that's not the way we play b-ball. We play very respectable... I found that comment (from Gearon) to be a little rude."

The loss overshadowed a valiant late-game effort from Al Horford and Josh Smith, who fueled a 14-4 fourth quarter run that gave the Hawks a 79-76 lead in the final two minutes of the game.

But they couldn't hold it. Garnett put the Celtics up 81-79 with a short jumper with 30.4 seconds to play. Horford missed the first of two free throws with 2.3 seconds to play, ending any chance the Hawks had of tying the game at the line.

Paul Pierce drained two free throws and the Hawks never got a chance to attempt a game-tying shot.

"It's a tough way to go out," said Hawks forward Marvin Williams. "No other way to describe it the feeling of having the game in hand one second and then seeing it slip away in the next."

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