In the past few years, the Hawks have often not had much in terms of expectations for the playoffs. In those years, a win in Game 1 would have usually been seen as a huge victory.
On Sunday, the Hawks’ 99-92 Game 1 win over the Brooklyn Nets left something to be desired.
The 1-seed Hawks — with 60 wins and the status as the overwhelming favorite — got off to a strong start, outscoring the Nets 32-20 in the first quarter. The Hawks took advantage of six Brooklyn turnovers and were using them to create open looks on offense. This continued into the beginning of the second quarter, as the Hawks increased their lead up to 16 points and appeared to be well on their way to blowing out their opponent.
However, the Nets stopped turning the ball over and ramped up their defensive effort to start putting pressure on the Hawks. “We had turnovers early, but we finally cut down on our turnovers and figured out how to execute and score,” said Nets head coach Lionel Hollins. “We got ourselves back close in the game.”
Not only did the Nets get close, but they had a real chance at stealing a victory late in the game. When Al Horford left the game after dislocating his right pinky finger, the Nets really started to cause trouble for the Hawks with their offense. It was only when Horford re-entered the game that the Hawks were able to come together and get consistent stops on defense.
Both Coach Budenholzer and Horford commented that the do not expect the injury to change anything going forward.
“They had x-rays and they came back negative,” Budenholzer said on Horford’s injury. “Obviously Al came back and finished the game. We’re hopeful that he’ll be fine going forward.”
Budenholzer also commented on Paul Millsap’s shoulder, stating that he does not believe that Millsap is being limited by the injury. Millsap was 2-for-11 from the field for the game, but — Budenholzer pointed out — Millsap was doing a lot of things on defense to lift the Hawks to the win.
With Millsap and Horford both struggling a bit with regards to scoring, the Hawks were saved by their starting wings. Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll combined to score 38 points, hitting seven 3s in the process. Korver, who led the team with 21 points, also had seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
Back to expectations, while a Hawks win is a good start for their playoff run, there were a lot of holes and concerns in this game that could affect their success in the future. One of those is the injuries to Millsap and Horford, who looked hesitant to shoot jumpers late in the game. With how much the Hawks’ offense is based off of the shooting abilities of the bigs, this could become a large issue for the Hawks.
Another big problem for the Hawks was the stagnant play of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder. Teague closed the game with some clutch plays and Schröder made a few exciting baskets, but both were often ineffective at running the team’s offense. Teague’s poor shot clock awareness showed at times and Schröder made some poor passes that resulted in turnovers. With Millsap and Horford dealing with their injuries, the Hawks needed good play from their point guards and they did not get it.
Luckily for Atlanta, they will have a few days off to heal and adjust. These two teams have until Wednesday at 7PM until they embark upon Game 2 of this series.