2012 NBA Playoffs: Why Atlanta Needs a Healthy J-Smoove Against the Celtics

Karthik TadisinaSenior Writer IMay 3, 2012

Josh Smith and Kevin Garnett.
Josh Smith and Kevin Garnett.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Injuries have been the story around the NBA as the playoffs are now in full swing.

Could the Atlanta Hawks be the next team to lose another key player to an injury?

The Hawks have already been without starting center Al Horford for a major portion of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle.

Backup center Zaza Pachulia has been out of action for about three weeks due to a foot injury and did not dress for both Game 1 and 2, although he is listed as day-to-day.

Additionally, the Hawks lost forward Josh Smith during the fourth quarter of Game 2 to a strained tendon in his left knee, and according to reports could be forced to sit out Game 3, which would be a huge loss for a Hawks team already dealing with injuries to key players.

The Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics have each won one game apiece as the series heads to Boston for Games 3 and 4. Surely the Hawks would be in trouble if they are without J-Smoove, right?

Well, based on how the offense looked late in the fourth quarter of Game 2, the answer may be yes.

The Hawks turned to Joe Johnson for the majority of their offense and the Celtics responded by forcing Johnson to shoot guarded jump shots that took the four remaining Hawks players out of the rhythm of the basketball game.

While Johnson can shoot the ball over his defender and prefers to roam on the perimeter, Smith provides a mismatch the Hawks can potentially use to their advantage.

With Smith being guarded by the Celtics' Kevin Garnett and/or Brandon Bass, he can blow by them with his speed (as Garnett is playing somewhat out of his natural power forward position), or can shoot the jumper from the baseline, making him a legitimate threat.

The bottom line is that without Josh Smith in the lineup the Hawks become a very predictable team in their offensive sets and execution. The Hawks will need an aggressive Josh Smith and an inside/outside combination of shots from Joe Johnson to have a chance of defeating the veteran Boston Celtics squad.