Winning always trumps losing, and maybe you heard: The Hawks used incredible energy to rip the Miami Heat on Sunday night at Philips Arena during the opener of a first-round playoff series.
To prove that Game 1 wasn’t just the figment of everybody’s imagination, when the Hawks won by 26 points and made the mighty Dwyane Wade meek, they must realize something.
They must show it, too. They must realize and show they understand that to prosper in the NBA’s postseason, you have to keep hustling at a wild and crazy pace until the other guy drops.
Take it from Hawks point guard Mike Bibby, who told us Tuesday after practice, “We’ve had second halves when we’ve had [a lot of energy]. There have been times when we’ve done it at the beginning of games. But there also have been times when we’ve missed shots, and then we’ve given up easy baskets. We don’t want it to be like that. You know what I mean?”
Yep. It’s called a lack of focus, which leads to less than the intensity the Hawks had in Game 1, which leads to something like continuing to go more than a decade without winning a playoff series.
Given that, the Hawks must spend Wednesday night’s Game 2 on their home court with greater fire than that of the Heat in consecutive games. It also wouldn’t hurt if they find more ways to keep Wade from sizzling when it counts. Then, after the series moves to south Florida for two games, the Hawks must transfer the game-long vigor they’ve often shown at home this season to the road, where they’ve been splendid, but only as corpses.
The point is, the Hawks have traveled far since their 13-victory season of five years ago. Even so, despite winning 47 times this past regular season, we still don’t know where they are along their journey from goodness to the elite.
This will tell us. That’s because the elite teams give you multiple games with energy during the playoffs. The elite teams do such things at home and on the road.
The elite teams operate similarly to Al Horford’s Florida Gators along the way to their consecutive national championships through the 2007 season.
Then again, maybe not.
“It’s a little different in college with this situation compared to the pros,” said Horford, in his second NBA season, but already evolving into the leader of the youngest playoff team in the Eastern Conference. “In college, you’re focused, but your confidence level goes up, and you even see it at mid-major schools. You see it in their faces that they feel they compete and that they can play with anybody.
“In the pros, you’re always on edge during the playoffs. You’re focused. Every possession counts. In college, you can maybe deal with a few mistakes here and there, but at this level, everything counts.”
It did for the Hawks during Game 1 against Miami, and nothing changes along their way to the second round. That is, if they make the second round.
They will. They get it.