For the second straight playoff series, the Atlanta Hawks stunned the NBA by stealing homecourt advantage in Game 1. The Hawks knocked off the top-seeded Chicago Bulls, 103-95, on Monday night to take a 1-0 edge in the series, and did a lot of things right in doing so.
Joe Johnson, for example, score 34 points on 12-of-18 shooting. He did not miss any of his five shots beyond the arc or any of his five free throws. Johnson struggled against the Bulls in the regular season (13.7 points, 39.1 percent shooting), so until further notice, this sort of performance is the exception to the rule. But to see him draining shot after shot against the league's top defense has to hearten Hawks fans.
Perhaps more importantly, Atlanta addressed one of its biggest issues against Chicago: rebounding. The Bulls outrebounded the Hawks in each of their three regular-season meetings by an average of 14 boards, which limited the Hawks' second-chance opportunities and helped Chicago's. That dynamic tilted in Atlanta's favor on Monday, with the Hawks holding a 38-37 edge on the glass. Al Horford pulled in a game-high 13 caroms for the visitors, and the Hawks kept capable Chicago glass-cleaners Joakim Noah (nine rebounds, 39 minutes) and Carlos Boozer (eight rebounds, 35 minutes) below their normal standards in that area.
The biggest factor of all in the win was Atlanta's ability to contain Derrick Rose. The MVP-to-be shot just 11-of-27 from the floor and committed five turnovers against an active, engaged defense. Rose is among the league's least efficient volume scorers, so Atlanta has to be thrilled he took more than twice a many shots as his next-closest teammate (Luol Deng score 21 on 8-of-12 shooting, but the "12" is just as important as the "21" there.)
Atlanta can continue its NBA bracket-busting tour Wednesday night in the Windy City.