Whether the Washington Wizards ratcheted up their defense in the second half or the Atlanta Hawks lost their shooting touch, the result was the same: The Wizards beat the Hawks 104-98 in the first game of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
We take a look at the key stats from Sunday’s game.
The Hawks, the top seed in the East, built a 63-53 halftime lead on the strength of ball movement. Of the Hawks’ 24 first-half field goals, 19 came on assists.
On possessions with three or more passes in the first half, the Hawks were highly efficient. They scored 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting – all off assists – on such possessions.
DeMarre Carroll was 7 of 9 from the field and scored 21 points, a career postseason high for one half for him, to lead the Hawks. Atlanta shot 52.2 percent (24 of 46) in the first half.
Different story after halftime
The 63 points the Wizards allowed in the first half matched the most the franchise has allowed in any half of a playoff game in the past 25 years, which spans 45 games in seven playoffs. In the second half, Washington allowed 35 points, its fourth fewest in any half of a playoff game in 25 years.
The Hawks shot 25.0 percent (13-of-52) from the field in the second half, their worst-shooting half and their most missed shots in one half this season. Their worst-shooting half had been March 7 on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers, when they shot 27.5 percent -- with Carroll, Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap missing that game.
Looking just at the fourth quarter, which began with Atlanta leading 83-31, Washington held the Hawks to 17.9 percent shooting (8-of-26). That threatened the Hawks’ worst shooting quarter this season (15.8 percent -- 3-of-19 -- in the third quarter against the Toronto Raptors on Feb. 20).
In the first half, the Hawks’ half-court offense featured two or fewer passes on 60 percent of their plays. In the second half, 80 percent of their plays featured two or fewer passes.
Without good passing, the Hawks didn’t get good shots inside. They shot 72.2 percent in the paint (26 points) in the first half but shot 40.0 percent in the paint (16 points) in the second half.
The Hawks’ two best passers in the first half of Game 1 were Al Horford and Millsap, who combined for 12 assists, seven on 3-pointers. In the second half, the Wizards stayed home on the Hawks' shooters when Horford and Millsap kicked the ball out.