Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hawks vs Celtics - NBA Playoffs Round 1

The Atlanta Hawks are the fourth seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference and will have home court advantage against the Boston Celtics in their best of seven series.  Boston won the season series two games to one.  Both teams averaged 86 points a game with all three games being close.   Atlanta made the playoffs for the fifth year in a row this year, three of those making it to the second round before losing.  Atlanta is led by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith with Jeff Teague running the point.  Marvin Williams, one time starter, is now providing much needed points off the bench. 

Boston's Ray Allen is a game time decision.  Still I believe the Celtics have more weapons.  The "Big 3" of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Allen are aging but still provide a formidable lineup.  Rajon Rondo runs the point and can put up big points when needed.  Brandon Bass is also having a career year adding some needed youth to the group.  Glen Rivers has showed some creativity by moving Garnett to center at times causing match up issues with the slower bigs in the league.  As a coach I think he is very good at making the right moves to put his team right there for the win. 

Still the Hawks are younger and I believe overall more talented. Star center Al Horford is out with an injury having only played 11 games this year.  While I don't see it as a positive it has provided JoshSmith some extra space in which to work on offense.  Johnson is averaging 18 points a game and hitting the three well (.388).  Point guard Jeff Teague made big strides this year more than doubling his points and assists per game totals.  This team has lacked good point guard play in the past so he may be the answer they've long been searching for.  He also shoots well from the floor (.477).  Again, Marvin Williams has moved to the bench and found a three point shot the Hawks have not seen from him in past seasons.  While center Zaza Pachulia won't make anyone forget about Horford he has filled in admirably. 

This series worries me.  Atlanta played well this season but I don't think they are really feared.  As in past years they haven't shown maturity in their play and it comes back to haunt them in the playoffs when they tend to fall on their face even if they do make it to the second round.  I think they are looked at as a team that will never make it past the second round as they are currently constructed but that is another post.  I think Boston's veterans will push them past Atlanta in the first round.  Heck the Celtics weren't even worried about home court advantage as they rested their starters late in the season.  Atlanta can definitely play with Boston and athletically play with almost anyone.  They can also spread the defense a little better this year but I think it will come down to the veterans of Boston performing at a better level come crunch time.  I shouldn't be such a defeatist and I hope I'm wrong but it just seems like a tough road ahead.

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