In Game 1 of their best-of-7 series, the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Dwyane Wade-led Miami Heat 90-64 as their postseason got underway on Sunday Night. The Hawks also joined the Nuggets as the only two teams to defeat their opponents by 25 points or more in their first game of their respective playoff series.
The Hawks used a barrage of defenders to baffle Wade and for the most part it was a success as Wade scored 19 points but turned the ball over eight times on his way to a forgetful night. But because of who Wade is and the special-type of player that he is, we cannot expect a similar performance like this in Game 2.
Here are the keys for Miami going into Game 2 of their series:
Wade's Play At The Line:
Wade only went to the foul-line 22 times against the Hawks during the regular season (four attempts in Game One) though he averaged around 10 free-throw attempts per game against the majority of the league.
The Heat were only 3-8 on the year when Wade attempted four foul shots or less. In simple English, Wade must muster up craftiness, the will, and the desire to draw contact which will allow him trips to the free-throw line and give Miami a better shot at winning games in this series.
Remember this was Wade's first playoff games in three years finally healthy and at full strength, since he last hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy and was crowned Finals' MVP after scoring 36 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a thrashing off the Mavericks
as his team won in six games after the Heat were originally down 0-2.
And though Wade only scored 19 points in their series' opener, he rebounded to average 25.1 points in his next game during the regular season after failing to score fewer than 20 points in his previous outing.
Also before Sunday's game, Wade had only been apart of six Miami Heat 60-point games in his six-year career and only one in the postseason.
Miami's Three-Point Shooting:
If the Heat hope to have any chance at advancing to the next round, they must clear the vicinity 70 points or less and they can do that by simply stroking the long ball better or by knocking down shots as Wade spoon feeds them the ball.
The Heat only shot 4-of-23 from downtown with three-point shooting champion Daequan Cook going 0-for-5 and long-range specialists James Jones and Mario Chalmers combining to shoot 2-for-8 from long distance.
If the Heat stand any chance at winning it will come by way of their three-point shooting. By nailing threes it will open up their game and keep the Hawks' defense honest when they attempt to cheat and bring a platoon towards Dwyane Wade.
If the Heat perimeter shooters are able to consistently drain three-pointers it will open up their offense for not only their best player but bench-threat Michael Beasley.
The Improving Play of Michael Beasley:
Beasley has continued to record more impressive numbers off the bench and posted 10 points and 10 rebounds for Miami in their loss. Michael also had five straight 20-point games to end the season and averaged 24.1 points per game over that span.
He still needs to work on his defense and was obviously no match for Josh Smith on the glass and in the air as Beasley lost Smith twice on the way to the rim and Smith slammed down two alley-oops to further cement Atlanta's stomping of the Heat.
However his anticipation on a play which resulted in block on Hawks' forward Marvin Williams was an encouraging sign to see. Williams took Beasley off the dribble from an iso set-up but Beasley moved his feet well and as soon as Williams began his form to attempt a lay-up, Michael gave him space instead of being overzealous as most rookies tend to, and timed his jump at precisely the right moment that his hand made contact with the ripe part of the ball just at the shot was going up.
The result: a blocked shot, a turnover, and a new possession for the Miami Heat.
Will Jermaine O'Neal Take A Trip Down Memory Lane:
On Sunday O'Neal scored five points, grabbed two rebounds, and turned the ball over three times in a paltry showing. The Heat expected more from O'Neal in the postseason when they acquired from Toronto
in the deal that sent Shawn Marion and others to Canada for O'Neal and athletic reserve Jamario Moon.
However, he's only a few years removed from a monster showing in the playoffs. In 2005-06, O'Neal averaged 21 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Indiana Pacers
in the playoffs and 19.5 points and 17.5 rebounds in 2002-03. Now obviously it was a while ago and a few knee injuries have further hampered his movement and mobility when he's facing the basket but come to expect more from a former six-time All Star and a 12-year veteran despite only being 31 years old.
Its understandable that his knees have suffered the normal wear-and-tear resulting from life in the NBA
but when you're competing for a NBA Championship (one in which O'Neal does not posses) more effort is generally expected.
The series between the Heat and the Hawks resumes Wednesday at Phillips Arena with Atlanta up 1-0 in their first-round series.