Season Series: Atlanta 2-1
* This is just one of the eight match-ups in round one, for all eight preview click below *
In three years, the Atlanta Hawks have done a complete flip.
In 2007-08, they went 37-45, clinching the 8th playoff spot, and gave Boston a scare in the first round, but eventually lost in game 7.
This year they are 53-29, have clinched the 3rd spot ahead of Boston, and will face the Milwaukee Bucks.
Something tells me that this year the Hawks won't allow a seven game series to happen in the first round.
The Hawks have improved greatly in the last 82 games since the Cavaliers swept them. Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford together, are amazing. Add younger stars Josh Smith, Al Horford and Marvin William to the mix and you have one extremely talented young team.
Heck, even their starting point guard Mike Bibby has been good putting up over 9.0 points a game, but he isn't your normal point guard, as he ranked over 30th in the league in assists.
No one believes in the Atlanta Hawks though (outside Atlanta).
I am sure many people will take them to beat the Bucks, but after that won't even consider touching them against the Cavaliers, Magic or Celtics just because the Hawks don't have an 'as-well' known house-hold name on their team...
But, don't be fooled, there is a reason these guys have won over fifteen more games than they did two seasons ago. The Hawks don't need someone like LeBron, Kobe, Howard, Garnett, Wade or Anthony to win games...they win by playing hard-nosed gritty basketball and as an entire unit, do it extremely well.
Should be noted though, late in the season Joe Johnson has been battling a thumb injury and missed a few games, but they expect him to play. In all honesty though, this Atlanta squad is way too talented to not win this first round matchup, and if it goes past five with Andrew Bogut gone...I'll be shocked.
The Milwaukee Bucks hail from the Central Division, sit a ways back behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, and aren't ever really talked about (unless you live in Milwaukee but even then, in past years you'd probably rather of cheered for Prince Fielders' Brewers or the Aaron Rodgers' pivoted Packers just up the I-43).
Since 1990 the Bucks have made the playoffs seven times and had a decent stretch between 1998 to 2006, making it six of the eight years during the time and appearing the in Eastern Conference Final in the 1999-2000 season (lost to Philadelphia).
It seems during the George Karl era, the Bucks were at their best with a variety of players over the years such as Ray Allen, Sam Cassell, Anthony Mason, and Tim Thomas. Once they decided to trade Ray Allen with 'Flip' Murray, even though it increased play time for Michael Redd, the team went straight downhill for a few years.
In those six-out-of-eight years that they made the playoffs, they only got past the first round in 99-00'. It wasn't until the 2005 draft pick, Andrew Bogut, was surrounded by not only Redd (who is now injured and out for the season) but also 2009 draft pick, promising point guard, Brandon Jennings, as well as picking up John Salmons via trade.
This season was looking like it could be one of the best in modern franchise history for Milwaukee... that was until this (if you don't like watching gross videos and haven't seen this, I am warning you; viewer discretion is advised... ...you may just puke during the replay).
(CLICK THE LINK AT THE TOP OF THE POST TO WATCH THE VIDEO, AS WELL)
Alright, so you see that, you puke and...Damn.
It's going to be extremely hard to beat Atlanta. They have Salmons, who has been a beast since joining the Bucks and is smashing his old stats ten-fold, which is important with Redd injured.
But Jennings is going to have to do something un-human like and players like Kurt Thomas and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (say that five times fast) have got to be Bogut-like.
Not possible. Unfortunately without Bogut, their season ends here.
TheCoach's Pick: ATLANTA in FIVE