Josh Smith couldn't wait for Game 1 start to Sunday night at Philips Arena.He was so anxious to get going that he left his house hours early so he could get to the arena first and begin preparations for his second trip to the playoffs.
He played like it.
He worked the Heat for a game-high 23 points, including five monstrous slam dunks, 10 rebounds and every hustle play imaginable as the Hawks pounded the Heat on both ends of the floor in a 90-64 win.
He made nine of his 14 shots from the floor and went 5-for-6 from the free throw line, leading a balanced Hawks attack.
"Josh Smith is a problem, man," Hawks forward Marvin Williams said. "That's the best way I can put it. He's a problem for a lot of people in this league, and when he comes to play like he did (Sunday night), there isn't a whole lot anybody can really do to stop him."
Smith couldn't wait to test that theory Sunday night.
"After watching all those games Saturday and knowing we weren't going until (Sunday night), I just had to get out of the house," he said. "I was going crazy. I wanted to just get into the arena and find some space to get mentally prepared."
Hawks reserve swingman Mario West is usually the first man to the arena and the first one on the court for his pre-game workout routine. So you can imagine his surprise when he showed up Sunday afternoon and saw Smith's clothes already hanging in his locker.
"That, right there, let me know Josh was ready to go," West said. "I loved seeing that."
Smith said the difference between starting the playoffs on the road, as the Hawks did last year, is totally different from starting with home court advantage.
All of the Saturday's upsets of the home teams served as the perfect wake-up call, not that the Hawks needed one.
"Nobody is going to hand anything to you," Smith said. "It was real surprising to see those teams lose at home. But we understand the importance of every game and we certainly don't want to give any of our home games away."
HAWKS 90, HEAT 64: The Hawks didn't fight all season long for home-court advantage to just give it away.
Unlike the four other NBA teams that squandered it this weekend, the Hawks treated home court with the proper respect. They smashed the Miami Heat 90-64 before a sellout Philips Arena crowd of 18,851 in Game 1 of their first round playoff series.
It was the Hawks' biggest playoff win since their 89-69 win over Detroit on May 10, 1999. They also tied a franchise record for points allowed, matching the 64 they gave up to Charlotte on April, 28, 1998, in a series against the Hornets.
"We saw what happened in Boston, Portland and San Antonio Saturday," Josh Smith said of the teams that lost home-court advantage. "And then we saw up on the board where Orlando lost to Philadelphia. So we knew we couldn't come out here and throw it away."
All five starters and Zaza Pachulia scored in double-figures, while the Heat couldn't get much of anything going outside of NBA scoring leader Dwyane Wade's 19 points on 8-for-21 shooting.
Still, the game didn't turn until the Hawks turned up the heat in the second quarter. Smith sparked a 29-14 run with highlight reel play after play, including 13 points in the quarter.
"I didn't know it would turn out this way," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "But I just thought our guys were just so focused coming into (Sunday night's) game. Sometimes you can be so focused that you end up being too anxious and things don't turn out the way you drew it up.
"(On Sunday night) I just thought our focus was there from beginning to the end. Our defensive schemes were right on the money in terms of how we wanted to defend. And I thought we did a fairly good job, especially in the first half, of sharing the basketball and making shots."