The fans were ready for it. As Jeff Teague made a free throw to make it 101-98, there was a sigh of relief that a miracle Boston Celtics three. Check that, another miracle Boston Celtics three, could only tie the game. That's how beaten down this fanbase is, that the Hawks mustering up enough points simply not to blow it in regulation, was a relief. Teague made the second one and the Isaiah Thomas did drop a long three, well defended, too, to make is a one point game with 0.4 seconds left.
Not enough time for anything negative to happen? Haha. Have you been a Hawks fan longer than one game?
The half hearted throw it, meant to tip it up, I can only imagine, was instead snared by Marcus Smart, he of the 3/6, Josh Smith-like, I got this, three pointers (25% this season, normally) and in an instant he had Hawks fans wondering if they were going to find yet another door, trap-door, more likely, to find themselves beaten again by the Celtics.
Instead, Smart's shot was a smidgey late and off to the left, and the Hawks had their 102-101 Game One victory in front of a lot of Volt Green T-Shirt wearing faithful.
The victory came on the back of Atlanta's version of the Big Three: Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Al Horford. It was Horford who came up with a giganticus offensive rebound late, one which might've been called a foul had not Thomas gotten the benefit of some poor officiating on the other end. Horford's offensive rebound, pirouette and trip to the free throw line and begin the foul end game that ended with Smart's too-late steal/shot.
And just like that, the Hawks didn't give the game away, they did play well on ESPN and, wow, they stayed mentally tough in the face of some seriously miraculous shot making by the usually poor shooting Celtics.
Maybe you can start trusting the Hawks.
Here were some other observations from a tense, yet satisfying Game 1 victory:
Al Horford is, indeed, Boss.
He's the heart and soul, and even though Tommy Heinsohn may not believe he's a great player, he certainly looked like it, especially down the stretch tonight. It's easy to overlook Al during a game, but he outran Jared Sullinger and company all game long, played hella-good defense, as per usual, and managed to finish with 24 points and 12 rebounds. He asserted himself late in the game, with rebounds galore and a clutch hook late in the fourth as well. He finished, which is exactly what the Hawks need him to do so they can close these games out.
Kyle Korver contributed, yes, even positively.
Korver was not a shot maker in Game 1, and yes, you can file that in the Captain Obvious Files. But Kyle was attacking the defensive glass, snagging eight defensive and nine overall. He played his usual fundamentally sound defense, and even got after Kent Bazemore when the Celtics hit on another back door cut for a basket.
But 0-7 on threes, even forcing it a bit, was not a good look for Kyle, his only basket coming on a broken coverage inbound layup under the basket, the lone source of Korver Points tonight. He'll be better though, especially if Avery Bradley is out with his late game injured hamstring for any period of games.
Drive Time Teague
Jeff was every bit as tremendous as Dennis Schröder was irrelevant tonight. Teague had to go the whole way in the fourth because the Hawks were not sharp without him on the floor. Teague had a number of sensational drives to the hoop in the game and there was a pair of transition possessions in the fourth quarter where Teague was masterful, shredding the Celtics for a pair of crucial fast break hoops.
Teague finished with 23 points, four rebounds and 12 assists, cementing the importance of #PlayoffTeague.
The Hawks were relentless in the first half, getting the Celtics into half court sets and holding them to 34 first half points and a 51-34 lead at the half. In the second half, the Celtics do what they do best, play hard defense, force bad shots or turnovers, and then get into transition to get some easier hoops, creating 67 second half points while the Hawks matched their first half total of 51 to squeeze out the win.
Game Two is Tuesday night at 7pm on TNT -- or get your Volt Green behind out to the game in person. You can do it!
LET'S GO HAWKS!