Tuesday, May 5, 2009

NBA Playoffs, Semifinals Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks

Point guard: Mo Williams vs. Mike Bibby
It might be a bit simplistic to say that the roles of these players in their respective teams, is just to shoot 3’s. But that’s what it all comes down to. Mo Williams isn’t the main facilitator of Cleveland’s offense, where Mike Bibby might have more of a leadership role on a relatively young team. Advantage: none.

Shooting guard: Delonte West vs. Joe Johnson

I always liked Joe Johnson, back when he was still a member of the fun Phoenix Suns. It’s good for him to finally have some success again these last two seasons with the Hawks. In Game 7 against the Heat Johnson was superb, shooting 3’s like he was only a few feet away from the basket. Delonte West needs to stay close to Johnson at all times, maybe they even put LeBron on him. Give Johnson an inch and he’ll score on you, Wade can tell you that. I expect him to have a better series than he had against Miami. Advantage: Hawks.

Small forward: LeBron James vs. Maurice Evans

Evans will start, but Mike Woodson already stated that Marvin Williams, as one of the team’s premier defenders, will also see a lot of minutes against James. Something tells me the freshly crowned MVP won’t have too much trouble with this. Advantage: Cavaliers.

Power forward: Anderson Varejao vs. Josh Smith
Varejao is a scrappy power forward, your typical blue collar guy. Josh Smith is built like a tank, and his athleticism is something that will get him past, or over his defenders. What Smith has to remember is that the offense shouldn’t stop with him. Pass to the open man if he has a better shot. Smith also needs to continue attacking the basket, and not settle for jumpers. Advantage: Hawks.

Center: Zydrynas Ilgauskas vs. Al Horford
How much effect will Horford’s ankle injury have on him? Z is so tall and a good shooter, which enforces Horford to use his quickness to bother him as much as possible. It wouldn’t surprise me if Zaza Pachulia comes off the bench early and often, to make this a better match-up. Advantage: Cavaliers.

Flip Murray played a lot of minutes against the Heat, but hasn’t shot as well as he did in the regular season. Still, he’s a valuable back-up who you can insert at both guard spots. Zaza Pachulia is a strong big guy, not afraid to make the hard foul, and a good rebounder. Speaking of rebounders, the Cavs have Ben Wallace on their bench, and if he’s healthy it’s an extra big body to bring in. Joe Smith is a veteran who will score a little, and always works hard. Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson were too inconsistent in the first round to be considered as a factor in this series. Advantage: Hawks.

Coaching: Mike Brown vs. Mike Woodson

What annoys me watching the Hawks play is that they sometimes forget to pass. One guy tries to create something for himself, oblivious if any of his teammates are open. You hardly see any movement out there, and that’s the reason why they needed seven games to get rid off Miami. In Game 7 we finally saw how good the Hawks can be: there were moments that the ball was going through four players and all of a sudden Johnson was wide open in the corner for a 3. That’s how they should do it, and Woodson should remind his players of that in every single time-out. The Cavs don’t have that problem. James, Williams and West are all good passers, and not reluctant to do it either. But besides offense, they’re also a strong defensive team that works together instead of counting on the individual. Brown has been to the Finals, has learned a lot in the last couple of seasons, and has his team working well together. From James to Tarence Kinsey. Advantage: Hawks.

What I’d say:

Cavaliers in five. The Hawks showed me too many times that they aren’t willing to change. Team oriented basketball is optional, not a must. This will give the Cavs a huge advantage, because if the ball isn’t moving in the Hawks’ offense, it’s not that hard to stop them. And that leaves us with LeBron James. He might endure some trouble with the athletic Hawks, but I don’t see anyone really having an effect in stopping him.