Since there will be almost zero talk of the Hawks impressive 103-95 win in Game 1 last night amongst the national sports media, lets discuss here what the win means and how it happened.
First, think for a second if the Knicks had the same post-season as the Hawks so far. You wouldn't be able to find a sports channel where an analyst wasn't discussing their NBA title chances.
The Hawks are winning games the way good teams win playoff games: Strong, physical play inside and clutch jump shooting. As long as Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford are knocking down shots, the Hawks have a shot in this series. The issues the team has, such as perimeter defense without Hinrich, poor shot selection, and more miserable performances from Marvin Williams (these 2010 numbers are still par for Marvin), but the way last night unfolded was perfect.
Jeff Teague did what he had to do at point guard, knocking down runners and a jumper or two. Josh Smith is still having trouble with shot selection, and his attacking the basket could be the key to Game 2, as Joe and Jamal will certainly get more attention.
So, how did the team flip the switch like they did after their poor finish? Simple. Since the Hawks get no attention around the country, no one considered that this team on April 2nd was 4 games out of 4th and 5 games up on 6th place in the standings and knew where they stood for the playoffs. Smith, Johnson, and company played minutes in the 20's (when not taking the entire game off) and they played the final 6 games getting themselves in shape for the playoffs.
Remember, this is a veteran team now that has played over 30 playoff games since 2008 together. They know what it takes to win in the playoffs, have experienced the bad losses, and are currently stepping their game up at the right time.
I definitely feel better about the Hawks chances in this series now, but I still think they will struggle in the long run without Hinrich. However, Game 2 is now a pressure-off game for Atlanta, and another shooting performance by Joe/Jamal could put the team in a position to reach a place the franchise has never been, the Eastern Conference Finals...