In predicament, Millsap sees playoff series 0-0 as Hawks return home


No doubt, the Hawks are in a predicament.

They trail their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Wizards after dropping the first two games in Washington, D.C.

Paul Millsap doesn’t see it that way.

“They have home-court advantage,” Millsap said after the Hawks dropped a 109-101 decision in Game 2 on Wednesday. “They played off of that. To us, it’s 0-0. We are going back to Atlanta. We are still confident.”

The series switches to Philips Arena for Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday.

The odds are against the Hawks. In NBA history, only 18 teams have come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. Of course, one of those teams was the Cavaliers, who recovered from the early hole to defeat the Warriors in last year’s NBA Finals.

The Hawks faced an uphill climb after they dropped a 114-107 decision in Game 1 on Sunday. Since 1984, teams that take the opener of a seven-game series win the series 80.7 percent of the time. The odds increase to nearly 95 percent for those winners of the first two games.

The Hawks are home now, but in the big picture they will have to win four of the next five games. That’s against a Wizards team that has won the past five games versus the Hawks, including regular season and playoffs.

The Hawks had chances in the first two games. It is there they find a glimmer of hope. They trailed Game 1 by five points with two minutes to play. They led Game 2 by three points with six minutes to play before the Wizards went on a 16-4 run.

“We had a chance in both games,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We gave ourselves a chance on the road in the playoffs. Nobody likes the result. Nobody feels any better but the fact that you are there and you have an opportunity, you have to keep building on it.

“You have to take what you do well and build on that and improve. Know that we did have a chance in both games. But credit to them. They found a way to win them both. Now we have to go home and do the same.”

If the Hawks are to defy history, they will have to stop the Wizards’ backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal. They tried in vain in the first two games.

Wall has been the Hawks’ nemesis. He scored game-highs of 32 points in each contest. He has 23 assists and has shot .477 from the field (21 of 44) and .667 from 3-point range (4 of 6).

Beal has combined to score 53 points, shooting .438 from the field (21 of 48) but not particularly well from 3-point range at .286 (6 of 21). He is a combined plus-35 for the series.

Both guards took over when needed. Wall scored 15 third-quarter points in Game 1 when the Wizards built a lead the Hawks could not completely overcome. Beal scored 16 fourth-quarter points in Game 2 as the Wizards rallied from a small deficit.

“He has played well,” Budenholzer said of Wall. “I think the free-throw line is the biggest thing. Can we keep him from shooting 15 free throws (as in Game 2)? Going into Game 3, maybe we will throw him some more looks. There are more things to do.”

The Hawks talked before the series of building a wall of players to combat Wall’s ability to get to the basket, should he beat the first line of defense. Presumably, center Dwight Howard would be the last line of defense. However, Howard did not play the final 15 minutes of Wednesday’s game, including the entire fourth quarter. Howard answered several postgame questions about the outcome and his playing time by saying simply, “I don’t know.”

Budenholzer said it was a “gut feel” to leave Howard on the bench down the stretch as he tried to counter the Wizards small lineup which was necessitated by foul trouble.

The Hawks face a must-win in Game 3. No team in NBA history has ever won a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Atlanta Hawks

Howard hopes to shut mouths after ‘mess’ of last few seasons
Howard hopes to shut mouths after ‘mess’ of last few seasons

Dwight Howard referred to his last several NBA seasons as a “mess” several times in a recent interview. That includes last year playing for his hometown Hawks. Howard was traded to the Hornets earlier this summer. In praise of a reunion with Hornets coach Steve Clifford, who was an assistant with the Magic when Howard entered the NBA as...
Hawks land jersey sponsorship deal with Sharecare
Hawks land jersey sponsorship deal with Sharecare

For the first time, the Hawks will wear an advertising patch on their uniforms, beginning with the 2017-18 season.  The Hawks and Atlanta-based digital health company Sharecare have reached agreement on a five-year deal that will put the Sharecare logo on the front left shoulder of the players’ game jerseys, team and company executives told...
Early glimpse of Hawks’ Nike uniforms
Early glimpse of Hawks’ Nike uniforms

The apparel partnership between the NBA and Nike begins this season, and teams have been releasing what their new-look uniforms this week. The Hawks have not yet released pictures of their uniforms. However, the gray uniform was revealed in a photo shoot of the rookie class taken by the NBA on Friday. Rookies John Collins and Tyler Dorsey represented...
Reeling Dream fall to Lynx as second-half comeback falls short
Reeling Dream fall to Lynx as second-half comeback falls short

The slumping Dream haven’t played “big time basketball.” Losers of four in a row and seven of nine, the last team the Dream probably wanted to see was the 20-3 Minnesota Lynx. The Lynx proved why it’s the best team in the WNBA, extinguishing a second-half rally and defeating Atlanta 81-72 at McCamish Pavilion Tuesday. The Dream...
Hawks waive Diamond Stone
Hawks waive Diamond Stone

The Hawks waived Diamond Stone on Monday in a move that came just weeks after the team acquired the center in a three-way trade with the Clippers and Nuggets earlier this month. Stone, 6-foot-11, 260 pounds, played in four games for the Hawks’ entry in the Las Vegas Summer League this month after the trade. He averaged 9.0 points and 3.5 rebounds...
More Stories