Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, May 1, 2015 at 7:00 AM
We’re at the point now where the Atlanta Hawks don’t even seem impressive when they win and cover! They were certainly dominant while racing to a 33-16 lead at the end of the first quarter this past Wednesday night in Game Five of their first round NBA Playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets. But…that was just a temporary reminder of their fantastic regular season form. Brooklyn won the rest of the game by seven. “Regular season Atlanta” would have won that one by 25 points as the bench put on a show in the fourth quarter.
*The bench continued to struggle, particularly “German Rondo” Dennis Schroder who’s living down to that nickname at the worst possible time.
*The defense was way too soft considering the opponent. You’ll see in a moment that Brooklyn shot 47% from the field in what should have been a “throwing in the towel early” ball game. (Deron Williams fell way back to earth with a 2 of 8 shooting performance…which put all the other Nets at a combined 50%!)
*Paul Millsap continued his poor mid-range and long-range shooting as he deals with a finger injury. This wasn’t supposed to be all that big a deal. But, it might be the tiny thing that turns Atlanta back into a normal team from a juggernaut. Five games into the postseason…and they’ve yet to be the scary team that was running roughshod over the NBA around the time of the All-Star Break.
Here are the final numbers from Game Five…
GAME FIVE STATS
Atlanta 107, Brooklyn 97
Shooting Pct: Brooklyn 47%, Atlanta 48%
Three-Pointers: Brooklyn 10/22, Atlanta 13/33
Free Throws: Brooklyn 13/15, Atlanta 14/20
Rebounds: Brooklyn 35, Atlanta 43
Turnovers: Brooklyn 12, Atlanta 11
Vegas Line: Atlanta by 9, total of 200
Atlanta made it past a dozen treys, which is very important. Yet…they still weren’t technically safe until the final minutes against a #8 seed in the East who wasn’t interested in killing themselves in a comeback effort. Brooklyn almost came back anyway. Atlanta must learn to slam the door in playoff games like this. Washington will come back from deficits. Cleveland or Chicago will as well.
In the big picture…the problem isn’t with the boxscore. It’s with what a boxscore SHOULD look like when the best team in a conference has to make a statement against the worst team in the playoffs. Atlanta isn’t playing like they’re the best team in their conference (more like a #4-5 seed that needs hot shooting to impress). Is Atlanta no longer capable of making statements?
Las Vegas Line: Atlanta by 3.5, total of 200
Atlanta is supposed to win Game Six and wrap it up. If not, they’ll be favored by 9-10 in Game Seven on Saturday against this week but pesky opponent. It’s still very hard to imagine the Hawks somehow blowing this series. If not for a fourth quarter collapse in Game Three in Gotham…it would already be over. Looking ahead…
*This version of Atlanta is in real trouble against rejuvenated Washington. The betting markets will still have Atlanta favored in that series. Toronto was favored over the Wiz and look where it got them! Right now, it looks like a toss-up in terms of Round One form.
*This version of Atlanta sure wouldn’t scare Cleveland or Chicago in the Eastern Finals. Even shorthanded Cleveland knows it has guys it can absolutely count on in crunch time in the form of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Who can Atlanta count on? Nobody on the roster has a meaningful playoff track record. Nobody’s creating one in 2015 yet either.
*The Eastern champ is going to be a clear underdog to either Golden State or San Antonio (penciling in the most likely options for now). If Cleveland fades because of the Love injury, and Atlanta sneaks in…well, they’re just a weaker version of either GS or SA. That might be a 4-0 sweep or a 4-1 laugher for the West.
You don’t want to put too much weight on any single first round playoff game. But, Friday’s Game Six is arguably the single most important game of this series for the Hawks. They either announce that they’re going to be a team that matters moving forward…or confirm that they won’t be.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his New York area sources to get a read on the mindsets of both teams. You’ll be able to purchase the final word for all Friday sports right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours Friday. Don’t forget that the Kentucky Derby runs Saturday! Ask about combination packages that scratch all of your Las Vegas betting itches!
Postseason coverage continues through the weekend and beyond in the NOTEBOOK. We’re looking forward to previewing the Memphis/Golden State series that begins Sunday. Keep looking for great handicapping analysis here on these pages…and hook up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!
Be sure to follow:
Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters