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Atlanta Hawks: 2009 Playoff Analysis

Hawks starting forward Marvin Williams is injured. Last week, Coach Mike Woodson and budding NBA All Star Josh Smith were fighting. Bloggers, radio heads, and mainstream media are calling for Woodson to be fired. Fans had the knives out and were calling for Woodson's head on a charger, and Smith to be escorted out of town to some basketball Siberia like Sacramento. Not to mention, the stock market is down and people are jumping off bridges in the city of Atlanta. What a difference a few days makes. When everything looks the bleakest in the NBA, a team finds themselves staring at a seven-game home stand. You get to sleep in your own bed, watch your own big screen television in your home theatre, hang out by your capital A-shaped swimming pool and grab a couple of victories over three of the best teams in the NBA. Today, the Indiana Pacers are coming to Philips Arena and everything is very, very good in Hawklanta. A few weeks back, I gave the Hawks the fourth seed in the playoffs. I have seen nothing to make me think they will not finish the season in that spot. The Hawks are a solid, close to 50 win team in an NBA regular season, but they have a team built for playoff basketball. The idea that this is a young and up and coming Hawks team is totally wrong. The Hawks are a veteran team that needs to learn how to win. The three big wins last year versus Boston show that these guys can win playoff games. The next big milestone is to win a playoff series. The Hawks shoot very well from the perimeter. They take care of the basketball. The team's top three players are unselfish on the offensive end of the court. When Marvin plays, the Hawks have big forwards that are long and can defend on the perimeter. Woodson preaches team defense. The Hawks play a half court style of basketball that carries over perfectly to the playoffs. However, for every strength this team has, they have a weakness that could be exposed in the playoffs. The Hawks do not have a true low post scoring presence. Horford is improving every week, but opponents do not have to double him in the post. Bibby has been the main reason for this team's improvement in wins this season, but his perimeter defense is questionable. Teams that have an attacking point guard will give the Hawks trouble. I think Mike Woodson has done a remarkable job over the past five seasons. Any normal coach faced with the terrible mounting loss total probably would have quit—see Tim Floyd and others. But Woodson has weathered the storm, and Billy Knight gave him Bibby last year as a going away present. The problem is that one of Woodson's weakest coaching areas is the most important in the playoffs. He is not great in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter. The Hawks hardly ever design plays or inbounds plays that result in scores in crunch time. Big shots this season have mainly come from Bibby and mainly been the result of very good ball movement and unselfish play in the final minutes of games. The Hawks are most likely going to face the Miami Heat or the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the playoffs. In my last article for Bleacher Report, I broke down the player matchups with the Pistons. The Hawks have swept Detroit this year, but the playoffs are a totally different story. The Pistons have more experience winning in the Eastern Conference playoffs than any other team in the past six years. The off days and increased preparation time that the playoffs afford teams is great for the Pistons. I just do not like that the teams are so similar. Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion that Allen Iverson will be back and playing at a high level in the playoffs. I like the Hawks if they have home court in either series, but they match up very well with the Heat. Dwayne Wade is playing at a remarkable level this season. He might be the MVP and the comeback player of the year for 2008-2009. Wade already has an NBA title, and he can take over a seven-game series. However, after Wade, the matchups favor the Hawks. Joe Johnson would have to guard Wade some, but the big key would be if Mo Evans can somewhat contain Wade during the course of the game. The Hawks love to switch screen and roll, especially in late game situations. To neutralize Wade, Woodson would have to change that philosophy and double Wade to make him give the basketball up. Make someone else on the Heat beat you in the last two minutes. The point guard play would be in Atlanta's favor. Bibby can contain the three-headed monster of Mario Chalmers, Chris Quinn, and the recently acquired Luther Head. Head probably sees more action than Quinn in the playoffs. Michael Beasley bringing scoring off the bench for the Heat is a big concern, but the Hawks forwards are all bigger than Beasley. J-Smoove, Marvin, and Al “the Boss” Horford will give Beasley matchup problems on the defensive end. If the Hawks make it to the second round of the playoffs, I think they match up very well with the Celtics and the Cavaliers. After the 2008 NBA playoffs, the Hawks have no fear of the Celtics. Paul Pierce broke Hawk hearts with a last second shot in a game in November, but all of their matchups have been great regular season games. If Garnett is not 100 percent, I think the Hawks can win a series against the Celtics. Lebron James and the Cavs would be a huge challenge for Atlanta. Marvin cannot guard Lebron. The only thing to do against James is let him shoot from the outside. If he has an off-week shooting, you might have a chance to steal a game in Cleveland. The strange thing is that the Cavs role players are tough matchups for the Hawks. Delonte West guards Joe Johnson as well as anyone. Big Z is a nightmare matchup for Horford or Zaza Pachulia. Ilgauskas is a huge part of the Cavs half court offense. He has to play well for them to get back to the NBA Finals. Lastly, this version of the Cavs really shoots the ball well from the outside. The Hawks are not great at guarding the three-point shot. In fact, the Cavs shooting takes away the Hawks solid zone defense as a viable option for Coach Woodson. The NBA regular season is a war of attrition. Situations like back to back games, injuries, feuds between players or coaches, bad airline food, snow storms, sick kids, the flu, and other mundane, trivial circumstance that can crop over a six month season impact wins and losses. The NBA playoffs makes teams focus in on one goal and one dream. The Hawks have weathered a bunch of storms this year. They have faced adversity, and it looks like they are coming together for a great end of the season run. This team has the players, the experience, the team defense, and the shooting ability to make it deep into the playoffs. All they need is a big break or a major injury to someone like Pierce, Lebron, Dwight Howard, or Wade. That would make things very interesting for this dangerous Hawks team.

Bleacher Report .com
3234 days ago
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Hawks' Williams sidelined, but opts to wait on surgery

Hawks forward Marvin Williams has decided not to have surgery on his ailing back, opting for a more conservative treatment program. ...

USA Today .com | 3235 days ago | 343 Ballers sent

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Hawks' Williams out indefinitely after declining surgery

Hawks forward Marvin Williams has decided not to have surgery on his ailing back, opting for a more conservative treatment program.

NBA .com | 3235 days ago | 359 Ballers sent

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Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks Sits Down with Austin Kent

Josh Smith is a 22-year-old power forward with four years of NBA experience, a record-setting pace for blocks, and enough highlight reel footage ...

Bleacher Report .com | 3235 days ago | 353 Ballers sent

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The Streak-Busting Atlanta Hawks Foil Utah Jazz's Plans For 13 Straight, ...

Amazing that's the only word that I can use to describe the outstanding 100-93 victory against the Utah Jazz. The tale of the tape was one fitting for a ...

Bleacher Report .com | 3235 days ago | 359 Ballers sent

Points : 346

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Johnson soars as Hawks snap Utah's 12-game winning streak

Joe Johnson scored 31 points and Josh Smith had 22 points and 12 rebounds to help the Atlanta Hawks end Utah's ...

USA Today .com | 3235 days ago | 346 Ballers sent

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Scoring
01. Othello Hunter0.0
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Rebounds
01. Othello Hunter0.0
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05. Josh Smith0.0
06. Ronald Murray0.0
07. Acie Law0.0
08. Joe Johnson0.0
09. Al Horford0.0
10. Maurice Evans0.0
Assists
01. Othello Hunter0.0
02. Thomas Gardner0.0
03. Speedy Claxton0.0
04. Marvin Williams0.0
05. Josh Smith0.0
06. Ronald Murray0.0
07. Acie Law0.0
08. Joe Johnson0.0
09. Al Horford0.0
10. Maurice Evans0.0
Steals
01. Othello Hunter0.0
02. Thomas Gardner0.0
03. Speedy Claxton0.0
04. Marvin Williams0.0
05. Josh Smith0.0
06. Ronald Murray0.0
07. Acie Law0.0
08. Joe Johnson0.0
09. Al Horford0.0
10. Maurice Evans0.0
Blocks
01. Othello Hunter0.0
02. Thomas Gardner0.0
03. Speedy Claxton0.0
04. Marvin Williams0.0
05. Josh Smith0.0
06. Ronald Murray0.0
07. Acie Law0.0
08. Joe Johnson0.0
09. Al Horford0.0
10. Maurice Evans0.0