If Game 2 of the 2016 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference first round is anything like Game 1 for the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks, everyone is in for another wild ride. Saturday night’s game was initially controlled in the first half by the Hawks, followed by a change in momentum in the third period in which the Celtics outscored the Hawks (31-21), which made for a nail-biting, jaw-clenching fourth quarter. The Hawks pulled out a win by just one point with a final score of 102-101.
Here are five key Game 1 factors that could impact Game 2:
1. Don’t underestimate Isaiah Thomas.
The Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas finished with 27 points, three rebounds and 8 assists. It was one game changing play after another by Thomas on Saturday night. Alongside Avery Bradley, it was ultimately Thomas who carried Boston and kept them within reach of Atlanta. With the absence of Bradley in Game 2 and potentially the rest of the series, the pressure is on Thomas to deliver for the Celtics.
2. Beware of the Hawks trio: Jeff Teague, Al Horford, and Kent Bazemore.
These three players were ultimately the driving force behind Atlanta’s success in Game 1. Though Jeff Teague was the Hawks’ scoring leader with 23 points, 4 rebounds and 12 assists, Al Horford and Kent Bazemore also made major contributions to the team. On Saturday night, Horford scored 24 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists, while Bazemore contributed 23 points and 8 rebounds. With numbers like that, together these three players have the potential to carry the Hawks to the top.
3. Avery Bradley’s absence after a hamstring injury will take a toll on the Celtics.
It is important to recognize the significance of Avery Bradley for the Celtics. Prior to leaving the game with what appears to be a significant hamstring injury in the fourth quarter, he was having an excellent night. Before he left the game, Bradley had 18 points and 3 rebounds. Had he been able to return to the game, he most likely would’ve totaled numbers similar to Thomas. It is reported that Bradley will not play in Game 2, and is unlikely to play in the rest of the Hawks series. As Boston’s second lead scorer on Saturday night, his absence could be detrimental to the team going forward.
4. The Hawks playoffs shooting struggles are real.
What happened to Kyle Korver and Dennis Schroder in Game 1? It has been said that Korver tends to “disappear” during the playoffs, and that statement was proved valid in Saturday night’s game. Though he averages 9.2 points per game, he scored just two points for Atlanta in Game 1. Additionally, Schroder’s presence was not evident on Saturday night either. During the regular season, Schroder was often the Hawks’ secret weapon with an average of 11 points per game, yet he failed to score altogether in Game 1. Contributions from players like Korver and Schroder are indispensable to the Hawks success in these playoff games.
5. Both teams are capable.
Nonetheless, both teams are still alive and adept. Game 1 turned into an extremely close game, demonstrating the talent on both sides. The Hawks dominated the first half of the game, yet the Celtics found a way to revive themselves late in the second half, even with an injured player. One thing to take away from Saturday night’s game is that anything is possible with the skill and determination of these two teams.
Game 2 will take place at Philips Arena on Tuesday, April 19, with tip-off at 7:00 p.m. ET.