Monday's Game 1 loss by the Atlanta Hawks in many respects felt like a missed opportunity. However, there were positives to take away as well and the Hawks can use those for confidence entering Wednesday's Game 2.
Atlanta overcame an 18 point deficit in the second half thanks to a stingy defense and an opportunistic offense. The Hawks also won the rebounding battle although Cleveland grabbed a pair of key offensive boards in the final moments of the game.
Atlanta's starting unit has been rock solid through much of the second half of the season however, none performed at a high level in Game 1. Cleveland had a lot to do with that, but the Hawks have to think that their unit can and will perform better in this series.
Al Horford and Paul Millsap combined for 27 points and 19 rebounds but were just 10 of 32 from the field. Kyle Korver was on the court for 37 minutes in Game 1 and attempted just one shot. Jeff Teague was a non-factor as well with eight points and four assists on 2 for 9 shooting.
Atlanta's bench did a good job of picking up the starters with the biggest contribution coming from Dennis Schröder, but if the Hawks expect to compete in this series, then their key players are going to have to perform better.
That must begin on the offensive end of the floor. Cleveland has shown the knack for coasting defensively but has also shown the ability to lock down when the situation calls for it. Atlanta was held to one field goal over the final 4:29 of the game. They might be able to get away with that against an offensively challenged team like Boston but the Cavaliers have way too many weapons offensively.
Atlanta had a pretty good defensive effort in Game 1 but Cleveland still shot 45 percent from the field and made 15 of 31 three-point attempts. Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith were a combined 7 of 12 from beyond-the-arc and Atlanta is going to have to do a better job of running the Cavaliers' top shooters off the three-point line in Game 2.
The Hawks were thoroughly outplayed during the first half of Game 1 and somehow were able to avoid getting blown out and stay in the game. They never really flinched when the deficit grew to 18 in the second half. They need to continue to show that same kind of poise, avoid the long offensive droughts and just give themselves a chance late.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, May 4, 8 p.m. ET
Location: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM