The Atlanta Hawks have shocked the world. They took Game 1 from the top-seeded Indiana Pacers in hostile territory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, winning 101-93 to take a 1-0 series lead much to the shock of many around the league.
My vote for game MVP may not be obvious but is certainly deserving. This player embodies what this year’s Hawks are all about: selflessness, humility and full of hustle.
DeMarre Carroll wasn’t even close to the biggest free agent acquisition in the past offseason and his game isn’t flashy. He came to Atlanta from Utah on a cheap 2 year contract looking to fill the void at the small forward spot the Hawks have had after trading away long-time Hawk Marvin Williams.
All Carroll has done is put together possibly his best season in the NBA as a tough two-way player. He averaged a modest 11.1 point, 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game in the regular season but even that line understates his worth. Day in and day out, DeMarre has had to face off against the opponent’s best wing player in a rigorous NBA filled with talented players. He has brought his lunchpail to the arena on a daily basis without any hint of recognition from many outside the organization. But that doesn’t discourage him.
And now, in the biggest stage of the NBA season, the Playoffs, Carroll has a chance to shine. DeMarre Carroll’s assignment today was a rising star in this league: Paul George. George is an athletic freak with as much an ability to slash to the basket as to pop out to flash his jump shooting range. He is the Pacers’ obvious leader and most important player, and he would be a very tough to slow down, let alone stop.
Carroll’s job was to follow George around wherever he went on the court and make sure he had a tough time getting shots up. The result was George being forced to shoot 6-18 from the field, albeit while totaling 24 points and 10 rebounds. Carroll matched his 41 minutes played with 39 minutes and also recorded a double double.
It was a team defensive effort to hold the Pacers to 93 points on 42% shooting and Carroll, the team’s regular season defensive MVP in my opinion, was a big reason for that. You can’t argue with the results, a Game 1 win for the Atlanta Hawks, and neither will Carroll, who always values the team over individual achievements. Look for the same bulldog mentality to show up in Game 2 on Tuesday.
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