Welcome to Day 2 of the 2022 NBA playoffs!
Today’s action continues with the most anticipated matchup of the first round, as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets face Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Boston Celtics. Then, the Milwaukee Bucks begin their title defense against the Chicago Bulls. Sunday’s finale features the NBA-best Phoenix Suns hosting the New Orleans Pelicans, fresh off their play-in tournament run for the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed.
Our NBA experts have eyes on every Game 1 showdown. Here are the most important takeaways from Day 2 of playoff action.
On the Hawks’ opening possession of Sunday’s Game 1, no fewer than three Heat defenders switched onto Trae Young, with Kyle Lowry, then P.J. Tucker, then finally Max Strus forcing the All-Star guard into retreat mode and subverting his attack. The sequence ended with Young, with the shot clock ticking under two seconds, trying to thread the needle on a Hail Mary alley-oop to Onyeka Okongwu that the big man couldn’t corral.
And so it went for Atlanta, which couldn’t recreate the Game 1 magic it had in last year’s improbable run to the conference finals, as the Hawks’ high-flying offense was stifled all day in the Heat’s win.
Miami’s defense, which ranked fourth in defensive rating and third in points allowed during the regular season, harassed the Hawks’ second-ranked offense all over the floor. They bottled them up early, holding Atlanta to just 3-for-17 shooting in the first quarter with Young’s only field goal — an and-1 fastbreak layup — needing more English than an Ivy League college’s curriculum to go down.
P.J. Tucker taunts Hawks’ bench after splashing corner-3
The nightmare only continued for Young, who was unable to break out like he did in the second half in the Hawks’ play-in win in Cleveland. He finished with just eight points on 1-for-12 shooting (0-for-7 from 3). Coach Nate McMillan pulled him with 2:34 remaining in the third quarter and kept him on the bench the rest of the way.
Offensively, Miami was disciplined. The Heat facilitated through Kyle Lowry (nine assists), but all of their personnel committed to making the extra pass to find guys like Tucker, Gabe Vincent and Lowry open for corner 3s. Duncan Robinson, who had a down year, exploded for 27 points on 9-for-10 shooting (8-for-9 from 3) off the bench, nearly tripling the boost the Hawks got from John Collins (10 points) in his first game action since March 11 because of finger and foot injuries.
The Heat looked like a rested, serious team that is the No. 1 seed in the East for a reason. Atlanta, which deserves credit for its play-in performance to snag No. 8, looked as gassed as its star in Young.
— Dave McMenamin
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