Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Strange but true: The Hawks lead 2-0 but need to be better

The sky's not falling. Neither are the shots. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

On the one hand, they won. And this being the playoffs, shouldn't that take care of both hands? Shouldn't that be all that matters?

Yes, I say. But, in this case, also no.

The Atlanta Hawks are the East's No. 1 seed. The Brooklyn Nets are lucky to have made the playoffs. The Nets came close to stealing Game 2 on Wednesday, and nothing in either game so far suggests this series is the mismatch pretty much everyone -- myself included, I freely confess -- figured it would be.

Twice now, the 60-win Hawks have been outshot from the field and outrebounded by a 38-win opponent. Twice now, they've had a double-digit lead in each half and have seen the visiting team drew near. In Game 1, the Nets closed within four points. On Wednesday, they had two chances to tie/take the lead inside the final 1:17.

The first time, Joe Johnson missed a tough runner. The second time, Deron Williams saw an open 14-footer from the left baseline spin out. They would lose 96=91, but you cannot get a better look at a game-tying shot. The guy -- and Deron Williams isn't the same Deron Williams once considered a peer of Chris Paul -- just missed.

Afterward the Hawks credited their defense, which wasn't terrible, but that same defense allowed D-Will to get open with 10 seconds to play. That said, guarding was again the better part of the Hawks' game: They made only 38.9 percent of their shots in Game 2, four days after making 43 percent in Game 1.

And yet: They're up 2-0, and the Nets are just as apt to collapse in Games 3 and 4 in Brooklyn as to bow up and tie the series. This might well have been their best chance, and they're weren't good enough to snatch it. But what does it say that the Hawks are having such difficulty distancing themselves from the worst team in the playoff grid?

Another confession: I don't really know. The Hawks have been the controlling team through both games, but they've missed so many shots that they can't achieve lasting separation. Maybe they as a team are just doing what Deron Williams did -- missing shots that should be made.

If nothing else, these two games have shown the Hawks don't have to shoot well to win, but that declaration should come with an asterisk: They haven't had to shoot well to win against the No. 8 seed. The fifth-seeded Wizards might be different in Round 2, though the Hawks have owned Washington, too. The Cavaliers or the Bulls will surely be different in the Eastern Conference finals.

Credit the Hawks for defending well, but this team cannot win three (or four) playoff series without making its usual complement of shots. On the season, they made 46.6. Through two games, they haven't come close to that, and to say the Nets are unyielding would be incorrect: They were 24th among 30 NBA teams in defensive efficiency.

Bottom line: The Hawks are very fortunate to be 2-0, but they have to realize how fortunate they are -- and start playing (and shooting) better.

The game column from myajc: The Hawks lead 2-0 but haven't dazzled anyone.

Also from myajc: Ressler to the rescue? Is the Hawks' nightmare over?

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.