A Sense of Urgency
Josh Smith summed it up best on Monday morning before the team took the court for gameday shootaround at the Bradley Center.
“We have to play with a sense of urgency,” Smith said. “Like WE are down 2-1.”
In reality the Hawks lead their best-of-seven series with the Bucks 2-1, but the difference between heading back to Atlanta tied and returning home with a two game cushion and a chance to close out the series on Wednesday is night and day. If the Bucks even the series 2-2, then the Hawks know that they must return to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Friday. All of the pressure shifts to Atlanta to defend home court with a loss tonight.
It is the playoffs and every game is magnified, but tonight could be pivotal. The players will tell you how important tonight is for tonight only. The “one game at a time” cliche has been beaten to death by players and coaches in this league for years. Joe Johnson went a step further by stating the team must take things “one quarter at a time.”
Fans and analysts can taken an even broader view of tonight. A win gives the Hawks a great chance to close out the series in five games and earn a few days off before starting the second round. While teams have taken long roads to the championship before (see Boston in 2008) it is more ideal to get through the first round with minimal wear.