The Atlanta Hawks will face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. It will not be an easy task for Boston to dispatch this Hawks team.
The Hawks have been in the playoffs consistently over the last several seasons. However, they have never done anything with those opportunities that would lead us to believe that they will this season either. They do have talent though.
Atlanta will be a hard out in the playoffs, but there is a way to do it. Read on to find out how.
Josh Smith is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. The forward is averaging 18.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Those are career-highs in both points and rebounds. Smith has also improved his low-post game significantly this season.
As the most well-rounded player on the team, Smith is a key for the Hawks on offense. Therefore, a key for stopping this team is stopping, or at least containing, Smith. Few players make as big an impact in so many facets on their team as Smith does. Disrupting him will disrupt the entire Hawks squad.
This Atlanta Hawks team lacks a key ingredient that all successful, championship-caliber playoff teams have. That missing piece is leadership.
Who is the leader on this team? It has a lot of talent, but there isn't really that one guy who the rest of the team really follows. As a result, getting up early on this team, both in individual games and the series as a whole, will be a key in bouncing them. They have no one to rally them to comebacks or lead them to big wins.
The loss of Al Horford will hurt this team in the playoffs.. Horford was the starting center, so his job was to help protect the basket. While Atlanta does have a few other guys in Zaza Pachulia and Josh Smith to guard the hoop, the loss of Horford still puts them at a disadvantage.
Attacking the basket is a must against this team due to that loss, especially if you can draw out Smith away from the hoop.
This team, while it has been very talented over the last few years, lacks the championship pedigree and toughness necessary to win in the playoffs. That's why their playoff success has been so limited despite them having so many appearances over the last several years.
Being extremely physical against this team will demoralize them and beat them into submission. Sadly for Atlanta, Boston is exactly the type of veteran team that will do that.
One thing that the Hawks do very well that will benefit them in the playoffs is play solid defense. The Hawks rank fifth in the NBA in points allowed, allowing just 93.2 points per game. Therefore, beating the Hawks requires a team to play great, balanced offense.
Once again, the fact that the Hawks will face Boston shouldn't be comforting to Atlanta fans. Rajon Rondo runs that offense to perfection and keeps everyone involved. Not a good matchup for Atlanta in this department.