The Atlanta Hawks knew that they had to come out and play with energy. So far, so good through the first 12 minutes at Philips Arena.
Joe Johnson has nine points on 4-for-4 shooting from the field to post the Hawks to a 28-26 lead over the Chicago Bulls in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup on Sunday.
Josh Smith netted five points and Jamal Crawford and Jason Collins have four each for Atlanta, which needs a win to return to the Windy City with the series knotted at 2-2.
The Hawks went big in this one, putting Collins in the middle and moving Al Horford to the four and Smith to the three. At least through the first quarter in Atlanta, that has helped address some of the defensive lapses that plagued the Hawks in Games 2 and 3 of the series.
Atlanta is only losing the battle of the boards 11-9. They also are double and even triple teaming Derrick Rose, who went off for 44 points in Game 3. Thus far, it's worked. Rose has six points, but is just 1-for-5 from the field. The bulk of his points have come from the free throw line as the Hawks bigs have punished the NBA's MVP each time he's driven into the lane.
Meanwhile, Chicago has given Johnson a bit of room to operate with. As a result, the five-time Atlanta All-Star is back to nailing jumpers again. So is Smith, which may or may not bode well for Atlanta's basketball team.
Luol Deng leads all Bulls scorers and Carlos Boozer has six points for a Chicago team that shot 42-percent (8-for-19) in the first frame.
The Hawks connected at a 54-percent (13-for-24) clip in the first quarter. The Hawks will need to keep up the energy if they are going to prevail in this one.