Five Keys for the Hawks Going into Game Two

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Five Keys for the Hawks Going into Game Two
(Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

As game one unfolded, nobody expected Atlanta to beat Cleveland, and they were absolutely right. The Hawks were trounced by the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena 99-72 despite being up by as many as seven in the first quarter.

The Hawks can certainly stand to improve on a variety of areas if they want any shot at winning this series.

With that taken into account, here are the keys for the Hawks heading into game two.


Joe Johnson Needs To Exploit the Mismatch

Johnson did a poor job of attacking the smaller man i.e., Delonte West, in what was easily the Hawks' most favorable matchup of the night.

Opening the game, Joe failed to set the tone by going right after West, instead deciding to spread out his attack which proved to be a major mistake.

On one of the Hawks' opening possessions, Johnson was guarded by Delonte West near the right baseline and instead of using his obvious weight and height advantage to bully West from a post-up position, he elected to take a step-back three which clanked off the rim.

Instead of taking bad shots, Johnson should have punished the smaller Delonte West into submission and attempted a shot, or at the very least allowed a Cavs' defender to come help him, thus opening up a look for one of his teammates.

The next time the two were matched up, Johnson once again bailed out West by passing the ball and the action almost resulted in a turnover. The third time he finally realized this and used his body to get into paint, where he lofted a floater into the basket.

Then finally, to end the first quarter, Johnson pulled up on a nine foot jumper instead of using his body to draw contact and get to the foul line where Johnson shot 82 percent on the year.

Johnson must realize this and correct the problem in order for the Hawks to have a fighting chance. Finishing with only 11 points and turning the ball over five times certainly won't get it done.

You can believe that Head Coach Mike Woodson will explain this to Johnson and expect a different No. 8 on Thursday. 


Team Defense on LeBron

Horford made James settle for a three-pointer, and though Lebron made it, it's a good sign that Horford recognized his assets and his fellow teammates around him instead of giving ground and hoping to be bailed out. The shot was also contested, just about everything you can ask for.

More chances than not, James won't nail a 24-footer with a seven-footer charging at him.

Joe Johnson and Al Horford did a good job of trapping Lebron on a fast-break opportunity and forcing him to pull back out where he was bottled up by Joe Johnson. The end result was an Atlanta stop concealing an easy basket.
Lebron and Mo Williams scored Cleveland's first 17 points which is exactly what the Hawks expected, and in a sense what they preferred.
James scored 15 points while making his first five field goals while another Cavs player didn't score until West converted on a jump-shot with 3:01 remaining in the opening period.
He had 22 points at the half and 34-10-4 to end the game.
Perhaps the Hawks should employ the strategy of deploying Marvin Williams to guard Lebron James in game two, as James went 0-for-1 and was picked by Williams in an ISO set in the first half.

Who Will Defend Delonte West
He accounted for seven straight Cavaliers' points during their 11-1 run, worked the pick-and-roll beautifully, and got Ben Wallace involved by feeding him a pass which Wallace flushed for a dunk. On their next possession, he drained a three near Cleveland's bench which pushed the lead to 12.
West also had four assists and two steals to go along with nine points at halftime.
Flip Murray obviously isn't committed to defense, but Atlanta needs Murray to become a two-way player if they want to steal some games.

The Turning Point
With the Hawks up 11-4, the Hawks' appeared to have a legitimate chance of upsetting the Cavaliers. However, things quickly changed on one possession.
With Cleveland on offense and the ball being moved around the floor, Mike Bibby failed to rotate out to Mo Williams and the result was a drained three from the top of the arc which trimmed the deficit to four.
From there the Cavs' outscored the Hawks 14-6 to take the lead and Cleveland never trailed after that.

Limiting Cleveland's Offensive Rebounds
Al Horford did a remarkable job boxing out Zyrdunas Ilgauskas, and as a result Horford snagged six rebounds to Z's two.
Josh Smith also deserves credit here as Varejao was only able to collect two offensive rebounds at halftime.
Though Anderson managed to collect nine boards as the game concluded, the fact is they were able to hold the Brazilian early on and they stifled Ilgauskas to only three rebounds in the entire game.
Expect Al Horford to continue to be a presence down low and scoop up the majority of loose balls in the paint.
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