Win or lose, this is a huge game for the Atlanta Hawks. After getting embarrassed in Game 1 by 27 points, the Hawks need to prove, if only to themselves, that they belong in this series. They have confidence, the confidence that comes from taking the Boston Celtics to 7 games last season. They know their home floor has become quite the home-court advantage during the post-season, though Miami found a way to win a game in the ATL.
No, what they need is a solid performance, the type that sees them right in the thick of it in the 4th quarter. Perhaps the Cavaliers do as well, just to feel that rush, that pump of adrenaline. Things have been 'easy' for the Cavaliers so far, that could change a bit tonight.
Joe Johnson scored just 11 points in Game 1. The duo of Delonte West and LeBron James did a great job keeping Johnson from getting to his sweet spots. They forced Johnson to work for every shot, every point. Johnson also seemed to avoid trying to attack the basket, perhaps due to fatigue.
Whatever the reason, I expect Johnson to be just the opposite tonight. If the Hawks are even to win a game, Joe Johnson has t have a big game. If Game 1 proved anything, its that the Hawks can play very good basketball, as they did in the 1st quarter on Tueesday Night, and still find themselves behind. That is a tough pill to swallow mentally.
For the Cavs' part, you can sense the train really starting to roll now. They are gaining more and more confidence each game and are really starting to put their collective feet to the throats of their opponents. You can tell that no matter what the score the Wine and Gold wants more. If they are up 5, they want to push it to 10. Up 15, let's push it to 20 and so on. It is that killer mentality that is the big difference between 2007 and now. That team seemed to enjoy being there, while this group is treating it like a business trip. They want each game to be over as quickly as possible, each round done in as few games as it takes.
Look for Zydrunas Ilgauskas to have a solid game tonight. He was off during Game 1, a common occurrence when Big Z has a long layoff. He should feelf resh and ready to go. If Z is hitting his 18-footer, the lane will really open up for the Cavaliers' penetrators to get to the basket. That is certain death for Atlanta.
I get the feeling that things will be a bit harder for the Cavs tonight. Is that just the pessimist in me? Is this team really THAT dominant? Another 27-point beatdown would go a long way towards swaying my opinion.