#1 – Atlanta Hawks
As expected, the Atlanta Hawks secured the victory in Game 1 of their first round tilt versus the Brooklyn Nets. After all, Atlanta steamrolled Brooklyn during the regular season, sweeping the series by an average margin of 17 points, and most expected the playoff matchup to follow the same script. For the first quarter and a half, the Hawks appeared to be on their way to dismantling an outgunned Nets squad. But Brooklyn rallied, slowed down the pace and only lost the contest by seven points.
Heading into Game 2 there are some areas of concern for the East’s top seed. All-Star forward Paul Millsap has publicly maintained that he’s 100 percent after missing time down the stretch due to a shoulder injury. However, the forward struggled to a six-point, seven-rebound outing and shot just 2-of-11 from the field. There aren’t many occasions where Millsap owns the physical size advantage against an opposing power forward, but the veteran does in this matchup versus Thaddeus Young and must find a way to exploit this better moving forward. All-Star center Al Horford will also play out the series after suffering a dislocated finger on his shooting hand. The issue will be more of an annoyance than game changer but it’s something to keep an eye on.
All-Star guard Kyle Korver and forward DeMarre Carroll combined for 38 points in the victory and kept the Hawks afloat. Also worth noting, keep an eye on the Hawks’ ability to control the ball as point guards Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder combined to commit eight turnovers in Game 1. That number will need to decrease.
#8 – Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets needed all 82 games to secure a playoff berth and received the unenviable task of playing the Atlanta Hawks in round one. However, Brooklyn weathered a first quarter barrage in Game 1 and ultimately made a very competitive run before falling by seven points. Yes, it’s a loss but it’s the type of defeat Brooklyn can build some confidence from and use going forward.
Despite their choppy play, the Nets shot 46 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Hawks, 47-39. Twelve of those rebounds were offensive in nature, leading to a plethora of second chance opportunities for Brooklyn. The Nets also left plenty of free points at the charity stripe, missing seven free throws, while shooting a paltry 68 percent from the line.
If the Nets are going to make a serious run at an upset versus the heavily favored Hawks, former All-Star guard Deron Williams will need to lead the charge. Williams finished with 13 points but took only 11 shots in the process. There was a stretch in the second quarter where it appeared Williams was ready to put his imprint on the game, but wasn’t able to keep it going. This must change. Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young out played Al Horford and Paul Millsap on the interior, as both players recorded a double-double. Former Hawk Joe Johnson led Brooklyn in scoring with 17 points, but shot 35 percent (6-of-17) from the field and missed all six of his three-point attempts.
Who wins Game 2?
Hard to envision the Nets holding both Al Horford and Paul Millsap to relatively pedestrian performances in two straight contests. Look for the Hawks to cut down on the turnovers and win the pace battle in Game 2.
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