Game 1: The Hawks defend their floor, use Miami as a mop

If Mike Woodson said it once this regular season, he said it 82 times: “We want to get back to the playoffs and have the homecourt this time.” Having worked six months to accomplish one mission, Woodson’s Hawks embarked on another Sunday night.

They didn’t just defend their floor. They overwhelmed Miami in a way a No. 5 seed isn’t often overwhelmed. They led by 20 points at the half and 26 at the end. They reduced Dwyane Wade’s team to D-Wade and the Nobodies. The Hawks had 59 points after two quarters. The Heat were stuck on 59 with three minutes to play.

If we weren’t still acclimatizing ourselves to the notion of the Hawks being good, we’d be getting really excited right about now. But we’re Atlantans, and it takes us a while. There were empty seats at Philips Arena for Game 1, and while there are easy explanations – it was a school night, and the economy isn’t in the pink – it still seemed a shame. This is a good-looking and hard-working and smart-playing (well, most of the time) club, and we as a city needn’t wait until LeBron James arrives for Game 3 of Round 2 to do the bandwagon hop.

“I saw some empty seats tonight,” Woodson said. “I’m begging and I’m pleading for people to come out.”

As well as the Hawks played over those 82 games, they saved their best for the 83rd. They limited the Heat to 15 first-half baskets against 12 turnovers. Nearly half of the former and exactly half of the latter were by Wade, who grew so frustrated he threw up his arms after losing the ball to Mike Bibby.

On this night, however, D-Wade was no match for J-Smoove. Sometimes we as an audience fixate on the clanging jumpers launched by Josh Smith and forget what a rare talent he is. Game 1 was our reminder.

Smith scored 13 points in the second quarter, dunking three times, two of which were multiple-replay-worthy. The first was off a 40-foot fast-break lob from Joe Johnson, who was quietly terrific himself. The second was better still, Bibby delivering from midcourt and Smith catching and dunking with his back to the basket.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

“[Bibby] thought he threw it too high,” said Smith, who finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five dunks. “I wanted to go up and get it and make this place erupt, and that’s what I did.”

That massive moment came in the midst of a surge that saw Heat coach Erik Spoelstra burn three timeouts in four minutes. The Hawks outscored the Heat 29-12 over the final 8:11 of the second quarter, and in the process they proved this isn’t the same callow bunch that spotted Boston two games before realizing they could play with the imperial C’s a year ago. These are grownups with a grown-up sense of self.

“It’s a totally different team,” Al Horford said. “We were really poised. The coaches had us on edge.”

Even Games 3, 4 and 6 of the Boston series paled alongside the purity of this showing. The Hawks are no longer a No. 8 seed with nothing to lose; they’re a big-boy No. 4 with a series to win. If they keep playing like this, they’ll win it without much fuss.

58 comments Add your comment

Ted Striker

April 19th, 2009
11:09 pm

It’s that tornado phenomenon. If area basketball teams could play when there’s a tornado watch or warning, they’d be undefeated

Hawk Fan

April 19th, 2009
11:20 pm

1st blogger … sweet

james

April 19th, 2009
11:23 pm

Good one Ted. Fun memories.
Congrats to the hawks. They played the game exactly the way they wanted to.
Anybody notice the fast break points? Something like 18-4 Hawks??
Missed the end–did Speedy Claxton score?

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
11:25 pm

Speedy Claxton did not score. If he had, the NBA would have declared this series over. Kind of like sinking the 8-ball on the break.

Hawk Fan

April 19th, 2009
11:26 pm

Heat played terrible and Wade looked unmotivated. Hawks will advance but the problem is Cleveland in round 2. They only lost 2 home games all year, so is there any chance we take 4 out of 7 against Lebron and company? I think any other opponent in round 2 and hawks would likely be playing for conference title, specially considering the other top seeds (Boston and Orlando) displayed glaring flaws in their respective game 1 losses.

Anyhow go Hawks … anything is possible.

Hawk Fan

April 19th, 2009
11:30 pm

Mark, what’s with all the blogging? Notice you and Jeff not afraid to trade blows with us regular folks. Kudos to you guys. Any chance of Furman logging on though?

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
11:34 pm

Wade looked unmotivated? Uh, I don’t think so.

Fast-break points were indeed 18-4. Points in paint were 46-30. Rebounds were 50-38. Assists were 23-12.

Hawks had six double-figure scorers. Heat had two — Wade, with 19 (on 21 shots), and Beasley, who had 10 (on 15 shots).

Go Hawks

April 19th, 2009
11:37 pm

I agree with Jon. And people wonder why the NBA has such a bad rap (no pun intended)….ridiculous. What were they thinking?

james

April 19th, 2009
11:38 pm

Thanks for the Speedy update (when was the last time somebody asked for a Speedy update??!). I was optimistic. Oh well.
All starters scored in double digits. I like the ball distribution.
Jon–I see your complaint. But I don’t know anyone who pretends like professional sports have much to do with morals. TI’s a crowd favorite. So they put him up there. Guess that’s the way it goes. Either way, these are bad conversations to start on sports blogs.
And thanks, Mark, for actually reading and commenting on these blogs. Jeff too.

Hawk Fan

April 19th, 2009
11:43 pm

Nice stats Mark. However, in the second half, Wade did not even take a shot until almost the end of the 3rd quarter. You would think being down 20 points at the half he would come out more aggressive. Credit the Hawks defense as well for trapping and rotating on him, but I expect Wade to assert himself much more in the coming games. He’ll probably guide them to a win (maybe two) in Miami, but wont do enough to take the series.

Jon

April 19th, 2009
11:44 pm

James re: “TI’s a crowd favorite”

Yep, I wouldn’t doubt it. It also does a great deal to explain why I’m not in that crowd. They’re welcome to it I suppose, but it’s a little tough to listen to Bradley cry over the empty seats when the club does stuff like this. It’s already a sport that has an image problem, why would anyone with a brain play into that image? Oh wait, I forgot who owned the Hawks … never mind the brain question, it’s already been answered.

BugKiller

April 19th, 2009
11:46 pm

No, Speedy didn’t score.

But Zaza almost got into double figures with 6 garbage time points, finishing with 8 on the night.

Love that Zaza! Haha.

My man, and the Dawg in me hates this more than anything, is Al Horford, 15. He is just getting started people. He’d already be a 20-10 guy on this team if we didn’t have Smoove, Bibby, or Johnson.

One game. It starts all over again Wednesday night.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
11:49 pm

I don’t think Horfy — I call him “Horfy,” as did Joakim Noah and nobody else — touched the ball on offense the first 10 minutes. And he still finished with 14 points.

Mark Bradley

April 19th, 2009
11:59 pm

About T.I. doing the intros: Speaking just as an individual, I wasn’t offended. (I believe he is in the process of paying his debt to society.)

Snowman

April 20th, 2009
12:07 am

Great win for the Hawks and Mark “simply thanks” for the way you have written this article!!!… One thing I will say about the Hawks, if you miss an open jump shot against them they will make you pay! (smile)…The place on TV looked electric and loud, was it?…Congrats Josh, you played very, very well tonight. Great night holding the Heat to Just 7 points in the 4th!!!…Mark, do you know how Marvin’s back is doing after the game and will he go on Wednesday?…Great jobs to the coaches a staff for the prep they did getting ready for the Heat. Kudos all around (smile)!!!…It’s a good time to be a Hawks fan! (smile)…

RickNole

April 20th, 2009
12:13 am

Jon- dude give it a rest. I agree with you whole heartedly, but dam man, you messing up my buzz from this game.

The Hawks came out and displayed in primetime that they are a team to contend with!!! I live in Orlando and watched the Magic lose because they became complacent. The Hawks on the other hand came out and proved that last yearwas no fluke and this year there will be big things happening in the Highlight factory!!

scottbravesfan

April 20th, 2009
12:28 am

How was the game not sold out? I watched it on TV and the place was packed I didn’t see empty seats until the fourth quarter when people started leaving the game because it was a blow out. Also I tried to buy tickets today and ticketmaster said the game was sold out. So if there were empty seats it was because of no shows not because tickets were not sold.

gdg73

April 20th, 2009
12:31 am

Jon, spoken like a true saltine. Go watch the good ole boy Braves.

Freshmaker

April 20th, 2009
12:38 am

Great win by the Hawks. I was at Philips for the game, and the place was rocking. I don’t know how it wasn’t a sellout – it was darn close if it wasn’t. I didn’t see many empty seats at all.

Very impressive showing tonight. Balanced scoring, really good ball movement, and stifling defense. 10 and 10 from Zaza in 19 mins is fantastic. I hope they remember what they did tonight and keep it up. If they play like this, the series isn’t going past 5 games. Glad we were one of the few teams to actually defend home court this weekend.

doc

April 20th, 2009
12:38 am

bug dont look now but zaza ended up with a double double at ten and ten.

KSEE

April 20th, 2009
12:40 am

I had NO CLUE Mark Bradley bumped T.I.
Tonight just got that much better!
Hawks put on an amazing performance!

The Truth

April 20th, 2009
12:40 am

Nice piece Mark though I can bearly hear the volume on youtube.

Jon

April 20th, 2009
12:54 am

Sorry RickNole, knock yourself out. I just can’t find any joy in celebrating it. I’d like to, I just can’t.
I saw 25-35 home games a season for several years in the 80’s, it’s not as though I have some aversion to pro basketball. Such is life I guess, I’m just not the target demo these days.

Furman Bisher

April 20th, 2009
12:55 am

WHO DISTURBS MY SLUMBER????

Najeh Davenpoop

April 20th, 2009
1:11 am

You can say what you want about the “target demo”… T.I. may have done the player intros, but judging from the music they play during timeouts nowadays the target demo is mostly white males in their mid-40s. “Low” by Flo-Rida (poor regional choice, by the way) was probably the only rap song I can remember them playing during breaks in the action.

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2009
1:16 am

Thanks, Truth. And I wish I were better at doing this video stuff. But I’m working on it.

Mathis28

April 20th, 2009
1:56 am

hey I think its great that My Hawks won game 1 of this series…Itsa bit of a downer that Mark Bradley would focus on the fact that there were empty seats in the 99% full arena…I WANTED TO GO TO THE GAME…in fact i went to 2 playoff games last year…this year however, Mark Bradley, i couldnt go…not because i didnt want to support my Hawks but because right now things ARE bad in this economy and people without PRESS PASSES cant understand that…BTW GO HAWKS!!!

merbertmoover

April 20th, 2009
1:58 am

my man mo off the bench be smokin…shot that ball like a big bowl of cheeze grits!

jtb

April 20th, 2009
3:01 am

Jon
I sort of doubt the Hawks asked T.I. to do the intros. I feel like he asked them. He is a huge Hawks fan and season ticket holder. So Jon yes it is awful for the Hawks to allow one of their biggest supporters to do the intros.

jc_dawgs

April 20th, 2009
3:36 am

That is the best I have seen the Hawks look all year! Man….if they can channel just 80% of that effort on the road…watch out NBA!

Go Hawks!

matt r

April 20th, 2009
5:52 am

Thanks for that last sentence jinx MB.

willie

April 20th, 2009
6:54 am

I agree that D. Wade was not nearly as into the game as normal. He definitely appeared to check out at halftime. With our crowd being into it like that, the Hawks will be nearly impossible to beat at home in this series. Even the Celtics players last year talked about how amazing it was. I’ll be at game 5 (if there is one)….let’s keep it up!

t-man

April 20th, 2009
7:13 am

If Boston loses, do we play Orlando, assuming they win?

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2009
7:29 am

The NBA doesn’t reseed after Round 1. The Hawks, if they win, would play the winner of Cavs-Pistons.

Greg

April 20th, 2009
7:29 am

don’t charge so much and people will come. I went to three regular season games and was shocked at how much it costs…not paying this much money…. watched it on TV last night

LKUHG

April 20th, 2009
7:37 am

GREAT ARTICE EXCEPT FOR 1 THING – what was the final score?

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2009
7:38 am

Hawks 90, Heat 64.

TDOGG0126

April 20th, 2009
7:58 am

JON WHO THE HELL IS YOU LIKE YOU HAVE NEVER DID ANYTHING WRONG BEFORE. AN WHILE WHERE TALKING BOUT T.I DO YOU SEE EVERYTHING THAT THIS YOUNG MAN DOES FOR LITTLE CHILDREN EVERY DAY WHO HAVE NOTHING DID YOU SEE ALL THE CHILDREN HE TOOK TO THE GAME DON’T JUDGE. GO HAWKS

Ted Striker

April 20th, 2009
7:59 am

All I know is that it’s a good sign for the Hawks if what folks are crying about is this — the guy who started at the player introduction spot.

ant banks

April 20th, 2009
8:11 am

mark, thanks for callin’ out these bandwagoneers!!

ProudTechFan

April 20th, 2009
8:18 am

Hawks were really flying high last night, and calling that building the Highlight factory Definetly lived up to its name as well. I just need J.Smooth to continue to play within himself, get rebounds and run the floor, leave the jumpers alone and he will be fine. The Heat don’t seem to have an answer for him at this point, and if Wade doesnt play every minute I dont see the Heat having much of an offense without him.

I wasnt at the game, so I didnt pay attention to the intro’s. The consensus seems to be so much for second chances. Yea, T.I. did a terrible thing and he admits it, but the guy does so much for kids and the community, having him do the intro’s shows people that really look up to him that he doesnt run or hide from his mistakes. He will do his year or so in jail come out and continue to be a better person. Much love TIP. I still got your back man..

Go HAWKS!!!

dawgfan1911

April 20th, 2009
8:22 am

Look people, TI did the introductions and understand this, Atlanta is TI. Atlanta is prodominately black and the idea was to get people in a frenzy before the game and it worked. The Hawks remind me of a young Cleveland team, but Joe Johnson is much older and Lebron has more ability. The Hawks are a point guard away from being a top three team in the East. Bibby is a good plug and he probably has three more good years left. I say draft Johnny Flinn from Syracuse to be the guy. I think he is going to be a great point guard in the NBA. They may also need another scoring guard when Joe comes out the game. Ifthis team can get some good owners, we may be able to win on a consistant basis.

Westurd

April 20th, 2009
8:40 am

Anyone see the game live? Josh Smith busted the roof of the building not once, not twice, but three times in a 3:00 window in the 2nd. Love seeing Phillips making some noise!

GET IT DONE HAWKS…………..see ya Wednesday night!

Mark Bradley

April 20th, 2009
8:47 am

Josh Smith was tremendous. And I’m guessing the place will be full come Wednesday.

SlimG

April 20th, 2009
8:52 am

Fellas, get off TI’s back. The kid made a mistake and let the cops find his guns. I’d be up shiot creek if they came in to my crib. Everyone makes a mistake. At least you bloggers have something negative to jump on. Give me a break.

Oh yeah, if we play this way every night, who cares about a one man show. We have our big3. As long as Josh, Joe, and Al are playing, we’ll be hard to handle. Go Birds!

Rufio

April 20th, 2009
8:53 am

Yeah game 1 was not a sell out as I was sitting on my couch at 330 yesterday and said to my wife, “wonder if the hawks are sold out”… so i got on ticket master and bought our tickets, and witnessed the craziness of the hawks and josh smith destroying the heat… and there were plenty of open seats around us.

p.s- all you can eat seats are the way to go… the same section without the all you can eat is 3 dollars less… theres nothing on the concession menu that is 3 dollars.

Ryno

April 20th, 2009
8:58 am

If anyone needs to be called out – it’s the people at MARTA. They shut down the line between Linberg Station and all points North.

Archie

April 20th, 2009
9:27 am

Wait wait wait! Somebody really made the argument that seats were empty because T.I. made the player introductions?!?!? Seriously, who cares? I have strong opinions on some topics to, but personally I like to reserve those strong opinions for topics that matter, not the person doing the pregame intros.

I won’t defend T.I, he broke the law and is paying for it. Yet, to say you’re not going to a game because a felon did the pregame intros is absurd.

NR

April 20th, 2009
9:27 am

Ok, call me ignorant, but I missed the introductions and am tired of all the acronymic nicknames. Who the heck is this felon TI? Convicted of what? -NWR

[...] sake or fairness to a man who has persevered through the dark days and who has, judging by the Hawks’ dominating performance in Game 1, playing at an ever-higher [...]