The Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat met for Game 1 of their first-round series on Sunday, with the Heat controlling things on the way to a comfortable Game 1 win. The Hawks clinched their postseason berth in Cleveland on Friday night, so now that we’ve had more time, let’s dive into a full series preview of this Eastern Conference battle.
The Hawks will be climbing an uphill battle in this series as the No. 8 seed playing the No. 1 seed Miami Heat. This was going to be true before Atlanta starting center Clint Capela was injured in Friday’s Play-In game, and it’s even more true now that he’s been ruled out through at least three or four games in this series, if not the entire series.
Miami played some of the best defense the Hawks have seen all season in Game 1, holding Trae Young to eight points on 1-of-12 shooting from the floor. Atlanta had their worst shooting game of the season as a team as well and trailed by double-digits for the majority of the game, with Miami leading by 30+ throughout the second half. How the Hawks adjust to the Heat’s swarming traps of Young will determine to what extent they are able to get back into this series.
Atlanta will also need to do a better job of slowing down Miami’s offense. The Heat got whatever they wanted from the perimeter in this game, making 18-of-38 (47.4%) threes. The Hawks made just 10 of their 36 three-pointers, making it a 24-point edge from behind the arc for the Heat. Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry had a firm pulse on the Miami offensive attack, the Heat have the shooting to make life miserable on a defense.
The Hawks were just 16-25 on the road this season, but they only need to steal one or two games in Miami to win this series. That will be easier said than done, as the Heat were 29-12 at home during the regular season. Atlanta has another chance on Tuesday night to steal a win on the road before returning home on Friday.
If the Hawks could get to Atlanta with the series tied at 1-1, their chances from there could be halfway decent. They closed the season 20-3 over their last 23 home games, including a blowout win over the Charlotte Hornets in their first Play-In game. They will be tough to beat in their home building, even for the No. 1 seed Miami group.
The Heat moved to 4-1 overall vs. the Hawks this season with their Game 1 win on Sunday after winning the regular season series over Atlanta 3-1. Miami would appear to be in the driver’s seat of the series after a huge Game 1 win as the hosts and No. 1 seeded team.
Game 2 could be telling in terms of how competitive the rest of this series is. If Atlanta falls down 2-0 without Capela, it could be difficult to climb back into the series vs. such a high quality opponent. Capela was soundly the Hawks’ second most valuable player this season and his absence can not be understated.
Another storyline heading into Game 2 is whether forward John Collins will move back into the starting lineup for the Hawks. Collins played 21 minutes in his return to the floor in Game 1 and appeared to be moving fairly well. Collins returning to his standard role could be a shot in the arm for Atlanta.
As typical of most 1-8 matchups, the Hawks are a pretty big underdog. If Capela and Collins were closer to 100%, their chances at an upset may have been legitimate. Atlanta has proven to be a tough matchup in the playoffs when healthy, and Trae Young may still be the best player in the series despite his Game 1 showing. The Hawks can get back into this series, but they will need to turn things around in a hurry after a disappointing blowout defeat in the series opener.
Miami Heat: -750 to win series (opened -370)
Atlanta Hawks: +500 to win series (opened +300)
Game 2: Hawks at Heat - Tues. Apr. 19 - 7:30 pm ET
Game 3: Heat at Hawks - Fri. Apr. 22 - 7 pm ET
Game 4: Heat at Hawks - Sun. Apr. 24 - 7 pm ET
Game 5: Hawks at Heat - Tues. Apr. 26 (if necessary, time TBD)
Game 6: Heat at Hawks - Thurs. Apr. 28 (if necessary, time TBD)
Game 7: Hawks at Heat - Sat. Apr. 30 (if necessary, time TBD)
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