- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2011

ATLANTA (AP) - The Atlanta Hawks ended this season the same way they have the last two: losing in the second round of the playoffs.

But coach Larry Drew and his players are encouraged about taking top-seeded Chicago to six games. The Hawks were certainly much more competitive against the Bulls than they were in sweeps by Cleveland in 2009 and Orlando a year ago.

Drew says his team is “very close” to taking its next big step, which would mean getting past the second round for the first time since moving to Atlanta.

There will be some changes, of course. The Hawks could pursue a starting center, allowing Al Horford to move to power forward and Josh Smith to small forward. They’re also facing the loss of sixth man Jamal Crawford, set to become a free agent this summer.