Thursday, April 16, 2009

That's Our Race, That's Our Playoffs

Anaheim Angels outfielder Tim Salmon said the title quote to this post, and for at least the first round of this year's NBA playoffs, I see no reason why it can't apply to the Atlanta Hawks.

This year, for the first time in a LONG time (1999 Season they were the 4th seed), the Hawks will have home court advantage in the playoffs, albeit for only the first round (unless there's an upset in the Cleveland/Detroit series). And for that, Hawks fans have reason to be excited. We will get at least 2 games to watch in Atlanta, and probably more. Furthermore, we will have the opportunity to make Philips Arena again one of the loudest and most intimidating places on the planet.

So how do I see the Heat/Hawks series going? I think it really is a toss up. I see the Hawks winning the first 2 games at home, that's for sure. However, one thing I know is that Joe Johnson will not win this series. There is no doubt that he will bring his A game, but Joe hasn't had any spectacular games against Miami thus far in the season.

Joe Johnson's stat lines:

12/12/08 - Hawks 87, Heat 73 in Miami
21 Points, 7 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 4 Turnovers

1/26/09 - Hawks 79, Heat 95 in Miami
19 Points, 4 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 5 Turnovers

2/27/09 - Hawks 91, Heat 83 in Atlanta
24 Points, 3 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 3 Turnovers

In fact, JJ only rose above his averages in points (21.4) in the win in Atlanta, and in rebounds (4.4) in the win in Miami. Whether it's the length of the defenders in Miami, the strength of Dwyane Wade on the defensive end, or just coincidental luck, JJ hasn't had any explosive games against the Heat.

Josh Smith is the only player on the Hawks whose had consistent games against the Heat - 14/15 points and 7/8 rebounds per game. If Josh Smith is our most consistent player in this series, we're in a little bit of trouble.

So how do I see it playing out? I think the Hawks win the first game, 103-91 on the strength of home court advantage and a huge double-double from Al Horford. Joe will score 30-something and the Hawks will take care of business.

In the second game, Josh comes out of the gate like a chicken with his head cutoff - he's dunking, blocking, and unstoppable. The Hawks will win, but the game will be closer than the first - I'm thinking 97-92.

Expect a post after the first two games with an update.

Ehlo's prediction? Hawks in 7, still unable to win on the road.

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