Hawks-Heat, Game 1: Don’t trip over the TV cables

If you’re a NBA player, you play a six-month regular season and slog through 82 games, and come the seventh month and the 83rd game everything changes. You notice this even before you’ve reached your locker room or donned your uniform. You notice because, from the moment you step through the arena door, there are TV cameras tracking your walk down the hall.

Generally, not much can happen as an NBA player walks down a hall. (J.R. Rider might stand as the exception that proves this rule.) But everything gets ratcheted up when the postseason commences. International TV and satellite radio and all the big-name Web sites are in the building, even in Game 1 of Round 1.

These Hawks saw it a year ago, and for the first two games in Boston they didn’t really cope. “That was the first time for a lot of these guys,” Mike Woodson said Sunday night, speaking before Game 1, “and there were a lot of nerves. We were a little jittery up there. We just didn’t fare well in Boston.”

As a consequence, those Hawks were always fighting the current over those seven famous games. They held their own here, but they never actually took a series lead. These Hawks have worked all season to position themselves to take a 2-0 lead before going on the road, and that, as we know, is a vast consideration.

“Getting the fourth seed, starting the first round at home — that’s big,” said sixth man Flip Murray, who has played in the playoffs but not as a Hawk. But any veteran can attest that one bad Game 1 at home can leave a team starting at a Round 1 exit.

Said Murray: “[The scrutiny] is something you’ve got to experience. You’re more in the spotlight. But you can’t be distracted.”

We learned a year ago that mighty strange things can happen in a series. Said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra: “Every playoff series is about change.” Indeed, Spoelstra pulled a shock an hour before tipoff, announcing that James Jones, a shooter, would start ahead of Jamario Moon.

Lest we forget, Zaza Pachulia went from being an unskilled sub to a cult figure by virtue of his Game 4 stare-down with Kevin Garnett. And now Zaza is about to play in the 2009 postseason, while the screaming and preening Garnett could only sit and watch as his Celtics lost at home to Chicago on Saturday.

Yes, it’s a funny old world. And the really funny stuff is just beginning.

Pregame update: Dwyane Wade did his walk-down-the-hallway in a handsome tie-and-tennis-sweater ensemble. And AJC pro editor Chris Vivlamore informs us that T.I. is on hand. And Sekou Smith hints of a possible Diddy appearance. (If so, I’ll Tweet. I’m following him on Twitter.)

Pregame update No. 2: Just walked out of the press room and found the Hawks yelling and jumping and bumping into one another in the hallway. (Right on cue, three cameras captured this magic moment.) They broke by saying, “One, two, three — together!”

Regarding this jumping-and-bumping thing, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, before a preseason game against Phoenix, the aforementioned Zaza was introduced as a starter and, unaccustomed to the star treatment, went to do the jump-and-bump and whiffed. He wound up sprawled on the floor. And Al Horford laughed like crazy.

45 comments Add your comment

MLH

April 19th, 2009
7:54 pm

shouldn’t T.I. be in prison?

Forever Hawks Fan

April 19th, 2009
7:55 pm

Let’s go HAWKS!!!!!!!

Bring down D-Wade and his posse. Please take Game 1 tonight at home. I believe in you Hawks. Believe in yourself and all things are possible. It happened last season and it can happen this season. Thing is … it can be even better this playoff year.

STAND UP and LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE!!!!!!!!!!!!

mike28212

April 19th, 2009
8:07 pm

LET’S GO HAWKS

brewdawg

April 19th, 2009
8:12 pm

Glad to see you’re blogging the game Mark. Here’s to a fun evening.

james

April 19th, 2009
8:13 pm

Hawks didn’t have any problems with the Heat at home this season. I know D-Wade can take over, but the hawks have been good on defense against everybody except point guards. I think Atlanta can limit Wade and the rest of the Heat just can’t make up the difference. If they play like they did last playoff season at home, they’ll blow Miami out. I think all these games will be close, but hawks win all theirs at home. Take it in 6. They aren’t consistent enough on the road to win in 5.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
8:20 pm

Kind of blogging the game, BrewDawg. It’s harder to do on a night deadline. But I’ll make an effort.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
8:24 pm

Hawks by four, 5:37 left in the first. The arena isn’t full, but it’s loud.

Wade dunked off the opening possession. Hawks appear to be throwing a little zone at him.

Marvin Williams started and scored seven consecutive points. The Hawks are playing very well, if six minutes and 23 seconds are any gauge.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
8:26 pm

Ted Turner’s here. And I confess I’m not up on T.I.’s legal status, but Ryan Cameron introduced him to the crowd a while ago.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
8:39 pm

Hawks 24-21 after the first period. Joe Johnson is destroying people off the dribble. Wade has 11 of the Heat’s 21. By this time in Game 1 in Boston last year, the Hawks were down about 15.

Biff Pocoroba

April 19th, 2009
8:46 pm

Mark, has Ryan introduced you to the crowd yet? And please let us know if Lil’ Bow Wow makes an appearance. I wonder if the Hawks are the only team in the NBA that has to sell Chic Fil A family four packs for their playoff games to try and sell tickets. Tonight’s attendance might match that of the Gwinnett Braves game Friday night.

Darrin "The Vent King"

April 19th, 2009
8:48 pm

Man, they can’t even look at D-Wade too hard without the ref blowing the whistle tonight…

Darrin "The Vent King"

April 19th, 2009
8:52 pm

Yeah, JJ doing his thang. I like the comment in that article where Flip Murray said he told his boys back home that he didn’t know Joe was game so nice. He says he knew he was tough, but he didn’t know he was THAT tough. Going head up with someone everyday in practice changed his view of JJ. It’s still hard for me to get a grip on the fact that JJ is 6′7 240lbs.

Darrin "The Vent King"

April 19th, 2009
8:54 pm

Leak in the roof? Man why does stuff like this always happen to Atlanta? It’s not even raining hard- good grief!

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
8:55 pm

Tough to sell Chick-fil-A packs on a Sunday, Biff, as I’m sure you know.

And Darrin, the treatment of D-Wade by the refs will indeed be a key to the series.

Warrick Dunn’s here, by the way. And Ryan Cameron has yet to introduce me, probably for fear of nobody knowing who the heck I am.

Reid Adair

April 19th, 2009
9:00 pm

T.I. doesn’t have to report to prison until sometime in May – for the person who asked.

So far so good through nearly a quarter and a half, the Hawks are up 10.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
9:00 pm

Miami takes timeout, down 10 with 7:25 to go in the half. Josh Smith just dunked off a 40-foot lob from Joe Johnson.

And D-Wade, contrary to popular belief, is not getting every call.

Jack H

April 19th, 2009
9:01 pm

What a block by Hortford into the fast break with Josh finishing. I bet it got real loud in the highlight factory. Wish I was there. Are the fans getting into it?

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
9:04 pm

In fact, Wade just swung his arms in disgust after Bibby stole the ball from him. Anybody else would’ve been T’d up for that.

Biff Pocoroba

April 19th, 2009
9:05 pm

Ticketmaster is selling Chic Fil A family packs for game two for $30 a ticket and all you can eat seats for $38. Since it’s been ten years since the Hawks have won a playoff series, you’d think that they wouldn’t need these promotions to sell tickets. But then again, they fell like they need Ryan Cameron to tell people when to stand up and when to cheer so I guess we’ve gotten too used to the losing.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
9:06 pm

Yes, Jack, They are.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
9:08 pm

Two more Josh Smith dunks — he has 16 points — and Miami calls its third TO in four minutes. Hawks by 14 and looking great. And I mean great.

brewdawg

April 19th, 2009
9:09 pm

And to think the Hawks almost lost Josh Smith this off-season. When he’s playing like this, he is a force, and darn near unstoppable.

Chipper "DL" Jones

April 19th, 2009
9:20 pm

Chipper is at the game and just got hurt squeezing catsup onto his hotdog. Escobar jumped up to cheer after Josh Smith’s last dunk and pulled a hamstring. Bobby Cox is asking for Joe Johnson to be taken out and replaced by Peter Moylan because he is playing too well.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
9:24 pm

Hawks by 20 — yes, 20 — at the half. Al Horford just hit off the baseline from a Flip Murray feed to close the proceedings. And it’s only two quarters in Game 1, but it’s clear the Heat have been reduced to a one-man gang. Wade has 17 points, the rest of the Heaters 22.

Great coaching job by Woodson in that half, too. The press really bothered Miami, which has 12 turnovers against 15 baskets. Total domination in that half, which I don’t think anybody expected to see in a 4-versus-5 series.

brewdawg

April 19th, 2009
9:30 pm

Great performance, and then all Charles Barkley does is criticize Josh Smith for not being a great shooter. Hawks still have a ways to go before the media will respect them.

jph08

April 19th, 2009
9:30 pm

Wade has 6 turnovers and has missed 12 shots. Great defense by the Hawks.

Reid Adair

April 19th, 2009
9:32 pm

What a half. Hopefully they will continue this intensity in the second half.

Then, maybe “Biff Pocoroba” can find something besides Chik-Fil-A 4-Packs to talk about.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
10:05 pm

Lead’s at 19, 2:18 left in the third, down from 23 earlier in the period. But Miami isn’t yet making a real run. Just scoring a couple of hoops.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
10:07 pm

Josh Smith isn’t a great shooter. Neither was Moses Malone. I believe he’s in the Hall of Fame.

MGM

April 19th, 2009
10:09 pm

Has anyone notice that Dick Stockton has made a ton of mistakes. He is constantly making incorrect calls and doesn’t even seem to be watching the same game sometimes.

GO HAWKS!!!

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
10:11 pm

Hawks 76, Heat 57 after three quarters. This one’s over. Wade has 19 but is the only Heater in double figures. Four Hawks are in DF’s, with Smith having 21.

And a word about Zaza Pachulia, the scourge of April. He just ran down two offensive rebounds on one trip. He’s doing it again, folks.

Biff Pocoroba

April 19th, 2009
10:13 pm

Don’worry, Charles Barkley was probably drunk when he made those comments. Maybe we can sweep this series and not have to sell discount tickets for the second round. People in Atlanta are just too used to choking and losing and aren’t going to buy tickets and jump on board for a while though. The Thrashers just finished a miserable season, the Gladiators just lost in five games in the first round, and the Braves (Gwinnett and Atlanta) look horrible so far. I just wish that we had Alan Henderson to bring in and score his seven points tonight for $5 million.

mike28212

April 19th, 2009
10:14 pm

The Hawks need to keep their foot on the Heat’s throat and not let up in the final quarter.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
10:16 pm

An Alan Henderson reference! That’s the spirit!

Reid Adair

April 19th, 2009
10:23 pm

I can never see enough of Josh Smith finishing off alley-oop slams.

Those – and Dwyane Wade being 8 of 21 from the field – have made this great.

Reid Adair

April 19th, 2009
10:24 pm

Ouch. Pachulia gets called for the offensive foul – and I think he got the worst of the contact.

Brandon

April 19th, 2009
10:29 pm

Josh Smith is a BEAST.

Reid Adair

April 19th, 2009
10:35 pm

Nice play by Maurice Evans right there.

Ben

April 19th, 2009
10:36 pm

Unbelievable performance tonight. I simply don’t know why the Hawks simply play out of their minds at home in the playoffs. We’ll see if this all translates when we go to Miami for game 3 but barring a 60 point peformance by D-Wade I don’t see the Heat taking one from us at home. *knock on wood* I swear, the Hawks were so bad for so long that I really found little to like about the NBA without a team to root for. Nights like tonight are why we put up with the misery over the years. Smells like……..victory.

Reid Adair

April 19th, 2009
10:38 pm

Ben, I told someone earlier today that I can’t remember the last time I was more excited about the Hawks than the Braves in mid-April.

Here’s hoping they can keep up the performance to finish the series off.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
10:39 pm

The Hawks had 59 points at the half. The Heat had 59 with three minutes to play. Simply overpowering.

Reid Adair

April 19th, 2009
10:56 pm

Mark, that was one of the best defensive performances by the Hawks that I can remember in a long, long time.

D Hunter

April 19th, 2009
11:08 pm

Bradley is right about Woodson being a good defensive coach. The problem is he has absolutely no concept of how to coach offense, or how to elevate his players to the next level. Kenny Smith said at the half that the Hawks glaring deficiency is that they only play one on one ball. How much coaching does it take to give the ball to one guy and everybody else clear out. Between that and the points off sheer athleticism, that is it for the Hawks on offense. And that is pathetic. Kenny also said that the Hawks have 5 guys on the floor who can hurt you. How many other teams in the league can legitimately say that? Theis team’s talent is being wasted by a head coach who should be an assistant.

Athleticism should be enough against the Heat. We’ll see how far it takes us with little or no coaching on the offensive end.

And oh yeah, Barkley was right about Josh being scary if he ever learns how to shoot a jump shot. Some of his jumpers, especially uncontested ones, are simply pathetic. But he can have five of those a night on me if he runs the rest of the game like he did tonight.

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2009
12:04 am

As long as Smith can score 23 points in a playoff game without a jump shot, why does he even need one? Why can’t he just keep doing what he does well?

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