ATLANTA — This is why the Atlanta Hawks wanted to start the playoffs at home.
With Josh Smith delivering one rim-shaking dunk after another and
plenty of teammates chipping in, the Hawks made Miami look like a
one-man team, running Dwyane Wade and the Heat ragged for a 90-64
blowout in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series Sunday
Wade scored 19 points — 11 below his NBA-leading average — and only one
other Miami even reached double figures as the Hawks tied a franchise
record for fewest points allowed in a playoff game. Wade spent much of
the night on his backside or complaining to the referees, his
frustration growing as the Hawks turned the opener to the best-of-seven
series into a laugher before halftime.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Atlanta.
Miami was held to its fewest points of the season — its previous low
was 68 — and the Hawks tied the mark they set against the Charlotte
Hornets in a 1998 playoff victory.
Smith scored 23 points and every other Atlanta starter also was in
double figures. Wade made just 8 of 21 shots, and Michael Beasley added
10 points on a night in which the Heat showed their youth, shooting
just 37 per cent and managing seven points in the final period.
The Hawks learned a year ago just how valuable that extra home game can
be, facing Boston in their first playoff appearance in nine years.
Atlanta made a series of it by winning three thrilling games at Philips
Arena, but the Celtics won four blowouts in Boston to get started on
their way to an NBA title.
From the day the Hawks walked off the court in Boston, they set a goal
of gaining home-court advantage to start the playoffs. Atlanta came
through, claiming the fourth spot in the East with its first winning
record (47-35) in a decade.
Instead of opening in a hostile environment, the Hawks got to play in
front of a raucous crowd that cheered their every move. They even
brought out Atlanta-native T.I. to make the player introductions, the
rap star still a month away from reporting to federal prison to serve
his one-year-and-a-day sentence for pleading guilty to weapons charges.
Wade may have been the best player on the court, but the Hawks clearly
had the best team. Smith led the way, firing everyone up with three
thunderous dunks during a decisive second quarter in which the Hawks
outscored the Heat 35-18 to build a 59-39 lead at halftime.
The Hawks made 11 of 16 (61 per cent) in the second quarter,
outrebounded the Heat 12-7, doled out eight assists and turned seven
turnovers into 10 points. Miami shot just 39 per cent (7 of 18), the
final attempt a desperation heave by Wade, who ran into an Atlanta
player on the follow-through and was sprawled out on the court as the
He got up slowly, clapped his hands in disgust and walked to the locker-room.
Atlanta actually took control late in the first quarter. After Wade
dunked coming off the baseline, the Hawks scored the final two baskets
for a 24-21 lead.
The second period was no contest. With Wade getting a quick breather at
the start, the Hawks quickly stretched their lead to 30-22. Then Smith
took over, scoring 13 high-flying points before the quarter was done.