Saturday, April 18, 2009

NBA Playoffs, First Round Preview: Atlanta Hawks (4) vs. Miami Heat (5)

Point guard: Mike Bibby vs. Mario Chalmers
The Heat finally solved their point guard problem by drafting Mario Chalmers, the perfect running mate alongside Dwyane Wade. Mike Bibby is a seasoned veteran with a lot of playoff experience during his days as a King. He loves the 3-pointer, but isn’t only a trigger-happy point guard. With a player like Josh Smith on the break, be sure Bibby gets his assists too. Bibby does have to work on defense though. Chalmers might have quickness, but Bibby is far from done. Advantage: Hawks.

Shooting guard: Joe Johnson vs. Dwyane Wade
You have one of the leading candidates for the MVP award against another top five shooting guard, because Johnson certainly is no slouch either. But despite his height advantage, his deft 3-point shooting and more than decent ball-handling skills, Johnson won’t be able to keep Wade from getting what he wants. It will be interesting to see how the Hawks will stop him. Advantage: Heat.

Small forward: Maurice Evans vs. Jamario Moon

Marvin Williams is back, but from what I know he’s coming off the bench, so it’s Moon against Evans I suppose. Evans is known as a strong guard / forward and will be asked to help out on Wade. Moon is a somewhat skinny ├╝ber-athletic forward which gives the Heat another player to run with on the break. But still: Advantage: Hawks.

Power forward: Josh Smith vs. Udonis Haslem

Haslem returns from his thumb injury and is the ideal power forward for the Heat. He can shoot, he can rebound and is a good defender, which sorely is needed against the talented Josh Smith. My problem with Smith is that he thinks he’s a shooter sometimes, something that must drive coach Mike Woodson crazy. Smith actually took a step back since last season, but for this series: Advantage: Hawks.

Center: Al Horford vs. Jermaine O’Neal

Some time ago I said about Horford that as he goes, the Hawks go. A good rebounder who also can score, to me has the edge over Jermaine O’Neal. O’Neal has showed some flashes of his former self this past season, but his health remains a concern. I’m going with the young buck. Advantage: Hawks.

Flip Murray has played a lot this season, and earned it too. Marvin Williams is finally back from injury, so when it comes to scoring the Hawks don’t really have letdown by putting them in. When it comes to big men on this roster, all you have is Al Horford, because I don’t expect Zaza Pachulia to have a huge impact coming in (stating the obvious here). The Heat’s Daequan Cook is a shooter but doing that under 40%. Luckily they also have James Jones who can hit the trey, and Jamaal Magloire to make the hard foul. But the key player here is of course Michael Beasley. The rookie is having a fine season, and the Heat made a great decision bringing him off the bench. The Hawks don’t have answer for that. Advantage: Heat.

Coaching: Mike Woodson vs. Eric Spoelstra
For a rookie coach, Spoelstra got the most out of his team this season. The Heat kept playing well despite a young roster, injuries and mid-season trades. That’s not to take away credit from Woodson, but I’m going with the rook here: Advantage: Heat

What I’d Say:
Heat in seven. The Hawks are a good team, and they will push the Heat to the brink of elimination, like they did with the Celtics last season. But with Wade’s flair for the dramatic, I expect some huge games of him in the first round.

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