Millsap: ‘They were playing MMA’
Everything is bigger in the playoffs. The lights are brighter, the crowd is louder, and the game is often more physical.
Hawks forward Paul Millsap certainly noticed the physical nature of Game 1, a 114-107 loss to the Wizards at Verizon Center.
“We were playing basketball. They were playing MMA,” Millsap said.
It seemed strange that Millsap would be the one to question the game’s physicality, as he was one of its biggest beneficiaries.
The All-Star forward finished with 19 points on the night, 9 of which came from the free throw line. The Hawks attempted 39 free throws in all, including 22 in the first half.
Several Hawks players were making their first playoff appearance, and it showed at times on Sunday.
“I thought they were more aggressive than us in the third quarter on both ends,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Usually the aggressor is rewarded, so we have to remember that and take it forward.”
The Hawks had success getting the ball down low in the first half, but moved away from it in half two.
“It’s just the way the game was going,” Millsap said. “We broke 100 points tonight, so I think offensively we did a pretty decent job. Probably could get up a lot more shots. I think they may have got twenty-something more shots than us, but defensively I think that’s where the game is going to be won for us. If we get back to playing some defense we will help ourselves out a lot.”
For Atlanta, playing better defense starts with stopping John Wall, wh;o finished with 32 points after taking over the second half.
“It’s tough, he’s a good player. We’ll have to figure something out,” Millsap said. “He’s going to get his, that’s the problem, so we can’t have guys like [Markieff] Morris with 20. Try to limit [Bradley] Beal’s touches and all the other guys, try to limit them as much as possible.”
It can be easy to overanalyze the first game of a playoff series. Both teams emphasized just how long a best-of-seven series can be. The Hawks will look to take the positives from this one into game two on Wednesday night.
“Individually and collectively, we will get better from this,” Budenholzer said. “I think at times our aggressiveness is where it needs to be. I think it needs to go to another level for the entirety of the game. There are some positives and a lot of things to learn from today.”
Washington Wizards guard John Wall drives the ball against Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard and teammate Dennis Schroder during the first half on Sunday.