The NBA playoffs, King James version!

Welcome to LeBron's world Hawks!

Welcome to LeBron's world Hawks!

 

HAWKSVILLE - If the Hawks felt like there was some cosmic [Dwyane Wade-fueled] wave of energy trying to keep them from reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals, wait until they get on the floor Tuesday night in Cleveland.

That’s where they’ll get their first taste of the NBA playoffs, King James version.

In short, if they thought Wade was an issue – the so-called one-man team that they couldn’t get past in anything but seven games – wait until they face LeBron James and his crew.

Not only have the Cavaliers rolled to the best record in the league, boast the NBA Coach of the Year in Mike Brown and the league’s probably MVP in James, they’ve also had nine days to rest and load up for the Hawks on their way to what all of the basketball-loving world assumes is a table for two in the NBA Finals with Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers.

I can’t think of a better time to be the Hawks.

No one thinks you have a chance. No one is expecting you to be anything more than a speed bump on the Cav’s road to the NBA Finals.

“We’re the team that wasn’t even supposed to make the playoffs right?” Hawks forward Josh Smith said. “If you let [the media] tell it, we didn’t even belong here. And we were supposed to lose to Miami. And here we are. We just keep showing up where we’re not supposed to be.”

The Cavs have lost twice on their home floor all season, so Tuesday night’s series opener should be interesting. The Hawks should still be in a groove and the Cavs have been off for so long … it should be interesting.

MIKE BIBBY’S BEST SHOT of the entire first round of the playoffs came before halftime of Sunday in Game 7 and it had nothing to do with his 3-point stroke.

Hawks coach Mike Woodson roasted him for passing the ball to Smith in the corner on in the final seconds. As Smith’s 24-footer bounced off the rim with 10.9 seconds left, Woodson jumped Bibby’s case for making the pass.

The surprise was Bibby’s response. He jumped Woodson right back, much to the delight of those of us sitting close enough to hear the entire exchange.

“If you don’t want me to throw to him put him somewhere else,” Bibby shouted. “He’s wide [@*&$%] open. Wide open. What do you want me to do? If you don’t want him shooting that then put him somewhere else. You tell him.”

After getting it back as good as he gave it, Woodson crossed his arms, did a pirouette and smiled at everyone watching as he strolled back toward the Hawks’ bench.

Woodson said later it was the first time Bibby’s “really lit into” him. And that’s why he was smiling about it. He loved seeing that kind of fire and emotion from his veteran point guard.

"NO! Let me tell you something coach!"

"NO! Wait a minute coach, let me tell you something!"

It was by far Bibby’s best shot of the night. And his reaction was right on the money in so many different ways. Because it’s clear that Smith has to curb his own enthusiasm for long distance shots (did you see him working in the paint early? The up and under moves, the ball-fake and step back and then lefty kiss off the glass. It was stick stuff. The Heat didn’t know what to do with him). And since he’s struggling in that department, it’s up to Woodson to find ways to help him curb it.

THE HEAT LEARNED A LESSON MANY TEAMS have this season about the Hawks when they play on their home floor. Forget what you thought about them away from Philips Arena, because for whatever reason, once they got on their own floor they’re a totally different team.

“They’re just terrific at home,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra Sunday after the Hawks had finished using his team as a dust mop. “They play with a great deal of confidence and energy here at home. We’ve struggled against them here in this building all year long, but it’s not just us. Everybody has struggled here as well. And it’s because they’ve built a pretty tough home court advantage.”

By Sunday night Spoelstra’s rage about the Hawks trying to embarrass his team a couple games ago had morphed into sincere praise.

“They’re a tough team,” he said of the Hawks. “They’ve really gotten a lot better. We’ve seen them mature over the years. They’re a team similar to us two or three years ago. They’ve developed their young guys, and more importantly they’ve kept the same coaching staff to help develop those players and have a consistent system.”

Wade might have summed it up best, though, after the game when he highlighted the difference between his team and the Hawks.

”They got more than one guy,” Wade said. ‘They’ve got four or five different guys they give the ball to and say, `Go make a play, either for yourself or somebody else.’ That makes it tough to guard.”

YOU WON’T SEE JOE JOHNSON BEATING HIS CHEST or poppin’ his jersey after big plays the way some other NBA stars do. It’s just not his style.

He drained two of the most wicked shots of the entire series Sunday, two 3-point bombs in Wade’s face, and didn’t do anything more than ball up his fists at himself. He glanced over at his family and friends that sit along the front row across from the Hawks’ bench, making sure they understood that whatever was ailing him early on in this series was no longer an issue.

 

Joe Johnson during a rare celebratory moment ... from another time. He barely cracked a smile in Sunday's stunning Game 7 show against the Heat.

Joe Johnson during a rare celebratory moment ... from another time. He barely cracked a smile in Sunday's Game 7 thumping of the Miami Heat.

The first smile he cracked was with five minutes left, when he headed to the bench to a rousing ovation from the crowd after his 27-point, five-steal explosion.

“I had to wait until it was late in the lock when I pretty much knew it was over,” he said of why he didn’t hop on a scorer’s table or call any attention to himself beyond his monster performance. “We’ve blown big leads before, so I had to make sure. If we win a championship you’ll see a whole lot [of emotion from me]. Other than that, it’s just competing, going out and having fun and trying to win ball games.”

And if you wondered if he felt any relief after finally playing like the All-Star folks around here have become accustomed to seeing, don’t.

“The only relief was that we won,” he said. “I’m putting this Miami series behind me and moving forward to Cleveland. And hopefully, we’ll make it an even better series.”

All THE TOP SEEDS IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE MADE IT TO THE FINAL FOUR. Boston and Orlando are set to scrap on one side of the bracket and the Hawks and Cavs are set to duke it out on the other side of the bracket. That’s actually the way it was supposed to work out.

They basically went wire to wire as the top four teams in the East, with some momentary shifting along the way. Dallas and Houston crashed the Final Four in the Western Conference. Houston won the 4-5 matchup with Portland while Dallas knocked off the depleted Spurs in the 3-6.

There’s something to be said for the Hawks making sure things held form in the East, though. It validates their 47-win season and legitimizes all the talking they’ve done the last six months about being one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Knock ‘em all you want, but they said they were headed to this point and here they are.

And they’ve yet to play their best. When you consider the injuries to both Al Horford and Marvin Williams and the fact that neither guy has played up to his own standard this postseason, the Hawks actually have quite a bit of room to improve upon their performance against the Heat.

And both Horford and Williams will return to action in this series. Williams could play a huge role, if healthy enough, defensively. Because the Hawks are going to need an active defender with the size, agility and athleticism to at least keep James occupied for long stretches.

Williams worked well against James during the regular season matchups (the Cavs took the season series 3-1 but the Hawks actually had one of those wins snatched from their grasp on a questionable late foul call) and again, if healthy enough, could potentially do similar work now.

Time will tell.

But admit it, you like talking Hawks this late in the season don’t you?

I know I do.

657 comments Add your comment

SWAT Native

May 5th, 2009
2:19 pm

Macoroni Tony,

I was also shocked by that “Amazing” commercial that was supposed to show highlights from the remaining playoff teams. I kept waiting for the Hawks highlight and then they finally showed D Wade dunking on us. It makes you think that the made the commercial in advance assuming that the Heat were going to win!

Sorry to spoil the party, guys…

Melvin

May 5th, 2009
2:30 pm

Sekou, can you please request that the AJC remove those pics of Lebron off our site. Geesh, we will see enough of him over the next 2 weeks. We shouldn’t have to endure looking at him on the front page of the HAWKS blog site as well. If they’re gonna put a pic of him on our page, at least put one up showing ZaZa dropping the People’s Elbow on top of his head… Get Lebron pics off this site…..

Fred

May 5th, 2009
2:40 pm

So, your saying there’s a chance…http://www.examiner.com/x-2723-Atlanta-Hawks-Examiner~y2009m5d5-Can-the-Hawks-follow-the-lead-of-Orlando-and-Houston

Fred

May 5th, 2009
2:41 pm

Mike is back

May 5th, 2009
3:04 pm

Doc, I know …I’m just jabbing @ Ya bro…cuz you one of the main stays on this blog…CMON MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!LOL

I’m no betting man either…but I’m willing bet the players will be looking to the fans to provide the same type of energy they feed off Sunday. I know the Cavs fans will be ridicules tonite…we better do the same when it’s our turn…this will be a great test for the players…u no what it is…tha no what it is…u no what it is…tha no what it.

GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

kwooden1

May 5th, 2009
3:08 pm

Rod, nice analysis. I’m with you in terms of our bench and your assessment of Mo, Z but especially about O’Neal.

My feeling yesterday was the HAWKS would win at least 2, my coworkers didn’t hesitate in labeling me as crazy and took the bet. Hopefully I can get free lunch out of this!!

Rod, I believe the HAWKS should play Lebron the same way they played Wade. I would be happy if Lebron took as many jumpshots as Wade did, because I don’t think he can shoot like Wade. Also, we don’t want to double and leave Mo Williams. If Cleveland plays us the same way they did before their going to attack Bibby at every opportunity. I think Bibby has been playing better defense, so I actually think we’re a little better in that area, than we were in the regular season. With that said it’s still a difficult match for Mike B. whether it’s West or Mo W.

I like the attitude Rod, keep bring it!

GO HAWKS!!!

Macaroni Tony

May 5th, 2009
3:10 pm

Swat Native

It’s like they flip a coin to say who was going to win Heat or Hawks. And the toss went to the Heat. I hate that about the league.

Tree Rollins

May 5th, 2009
3:13 pm

http://sportsradiointerviews.com/2009/05/04/mike-woodson-slams-jon-barry-and-his-comments-on-the-hawks/

Woodson attacking Jon Barry. Pretty funny. Im not a Woodson fan but this makes me like him a little more haha.

Sekou Smith

May 5th, 2009
3:50 pm

Mark Bradley and I rolled into town this afternoon and were promptly informed (by our taxi driver) that the Cavaliers are not only going to make easy work of the Hawks, King James and crew are going to wipe the floor with the rest of the playoff field on their way to a title. Had we known it was already done, we’d have stayed in Atlanta.

I’m not predicting an upset or anything. But call me crazy, I don’t see the Hawks being as easy an out as some others might. No doubt the Cavs are the cream of the NBA crop this year. And James, fresh off of the first of what could and should be many MVPs, is sure to be juiced about this second round matchup. I just think it lasts a little bit longer than the pundits (has anyone picked the Hawks to survive beyond four games?) think it will.

We’re going to see just how healthy Marvin Williams is tonight, because the Hawks are going to need him. Mo Evans is going to have his hands full with James. And the Hawks can’t afford to spend too much time with Joe Johnson helping out on him.

This should be good stuff all the way around. I might be more juiced up than LeBron!

Sekou Smith

May 5th, 2009
3:54 pm

And sorry for the LeBron overload Melvin. But if you think it’s bad around Hawksville, you ought to see what they’ve got going up in here in Cleveland. They’re on LeBron OVERLOAD up here. He was all over the local paper and I mean all over it, what with the MVP and their preview section for the second round. You’d go mad up here in LeBron-ville!

newkid

May 5th, 2009
4:02 pm

Biggest challenge tonight and throughout the series is not likely to be Lebron, rather it’ll be our battle against our own inconsistent play. All year we’ve had stretches where we performed as if we were clearly amongst the top echelon of NBA teams, and too often we followed those stretches with equally lengthy periods where we looked no more competent than the OKC Thunder. The just completed series with Miami was a microcosm of the season. What I’m looking forward to – win or lose – is a stretch of games where we consistently perform to our physical and mental capabilities. Although I’d rather such a stretch result in a Hawks-Magic Eastern Conference final, I’ll take whatever results (really?). Failing to advance while playing to our capabilities will make clear precisely the pieces we’ll need to compete for the O’Brien trophy for the next several years.

Volman

May 5th, 2009
4:09 pm

LeBron is 95% of the economy in Cleveland…. That’s all they can talk about Mr. Smith!

Hawks, you can do this. Please play with a CHIP ON YOUR SHOULDER TONIGHT! Do NOT play afraid! THERE IS NOTHING TO BE AFRAID ABOUT. This team has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO LOSE AND EVERYTHING TO GAIN!!

Go out there and PHYSICALLY BEAT UP LeBron. Give him some body shots. Heck, put in Solo to “rough him up”. I don’t care. But whatever you do, SEND A MESSAGE WITH GAME ONE..win or lose.

Send a message!

AtlFlavor

May 5th, 2009
4:12 pm

Man talk about David and Goliath. How do you play a series that is Lebrons to lose. Because the game still has to be PLAYED. Houston we have NO problems. The NBA can align its STARS but the better team Will win. The Hawks are on the Doorstep. No matter what happens in this series, they are HERE! This is a team that is going to be good for a Long Time.
50 to ONE. Yeah, we can do this.

Hawk

May 5th, 2009
4:23 pm

The Cavs name just sounds lame. I like this, Hawks stood up to Heat ready to attack, just like any Hawk would go after its prey. Now, it’s time to attack these lame Cavs the same way!

Melvin

May 5th, 2009
4:35 pm

Agreed Volman. The Hawks should be loose. They are not expected to win the seriers let alone one game. Hopefully the lack of disrespect should ignite a fire under their feet. However, there should be no pressure on them b/c the Cavs are the favorite. All they have to do is play like Inspired Underdogs. If they win one game in Cleveland, this series changes dramatically and watch how much pressure that would put on the Cavs.

“Give the Cavs NOTHING but take from them EVERYTHING”.

Let’s Go Hawks…

Astro Joe

May 5th, 2009
4:44 pm

Hawks are playing with house money. If they win. LeBron is the highlight. If they lose, LeBron is the highlight. Heck, we’ll see more of D. Wade during this series than we will any Hawk. These guys should play like they have ish to lose. Just let it all ride.

Astro Joe

May 5th, 2009
4:53 pm

cp

May 5th, 2009
4:53 pm

I really hope Marvin is healthy because I do not want to see Mo guarding Lebron.

Josh Smildress

May 5th, 2009
4:56 pm

So Sekou what you predicting then, how many games does this go to? I think everyone thinks this is gonna be over in 4 or 5, me I see it lasting a little longer than that….7

doc

May 5th, 2009
4:57 pm

yeah mike you know i will be there and loud. just jawing back but making it clear, objective thought has nothing to do with what i want in the end.

WPWW

May 5th, 2009
5:05 pm

FrenchyFries @ 11:01 (5/4) – You’re right on regarding the NBA’s marketing of “YObe” & LeBro(w)n. Just like Jordan, these 2 are overhyped & milked for $$$. James couldn’t hold Larry Legend’s jockstrap on his best day (& on Bird’s worst)! “Princess” James is another overhyped egomaniac that would be digging ditched for a living if not for his God given talents!

[...] OK, says Hawks AJC beat writer Sekou Smith, if it ever was a good time to be the underdog, now’s the time: Not only have the Cavaliers [...]

terrell barron

May 5th, 2009
5:25 pm

Sekou, is Marvin 100%? Or will he be shooting left handed jumpshots? Have you spoke to him, or seen him practice? How’s he looking? Thanks.

Volman

May 5th, 2009
5:51 pm

Sekou Smith

May 5th, 2009
5:59 pm

Marvin’s far from 100 percent tb. But who is at this time of year? They’re going to need him to give them whatever he can. Lefthanded jumpers, head butting the ball, whatever. You do what you have to do at this point.

D.Carter

May 5th, 2009
6:20 pm

LEBRONS SNEAKERS ARE UGLY!!!!!!! GO HAWKS

D.Carter

May 5th, 2009
6:28 pm

WOODY IF YOUR LOGGED ON AND READING THIS (LOL) STAY WITH THE 1 4 BALL SCREENS WITH JOSH IT WILL FORCE SIDE SHOW BOB AWAY FROM THE BASKET AND HE WILL HAVE TO MOVE HIS FEET WITH JOSH ON THE ROLL WHICH WORKS TO OUR ADVANTAGE….. MAKING LEBRON TO HELP AND MARVIN AND MO WILL HAVE TO KNOCK DOWN THE OPEN SHOT OR BALL FAKE AND STRONG DRIVES TO THE BASKET…….

(LEBRON WEARS THONGS DURING GAMES) !!!!!!! GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!

atlrayzd

May 5th, 2009
7:03 pm

Joe must be an impact from tip off. If and when he gets doubled teamed he must find the open man, be decisive when there is no double team, get to the free throw line. Leave that passive agressive in the locker room and set performance bar for his team. Doesn’t have to try to be better than Lebron just needs to be the best Joe Johnson and if that happens it will be a competitive series and his hawks teamates will fall in line.

David

May 5th, 2009
7:07 pm

Hey don’t get me wrong I love the Hawks, and they have come a long ways in the past couple of years. My hat is off to them, but they are just not there yet. I think they are about a scorer like Joe Johnson or Mike Bibby away from it. Sure if Pistol Pete and Dominique could suit up in their prime with the rest of this team they would blow Cleveland away but that ain’t going to happen. That being said no matter what it looks like on paper its the playoffs anything could happen. That is after all why they play the game (well that and the money involved) but the Hawks do got game no matter what happens….

Volman

May 5th, 2009
7:12 pm

Why only now are ticket prices going up? RAISE THE TICKET PRICES FOR ROUND 1 LIKE ALL THE OTHER OWNERS DID, YOU MORON ASG.

I AM GAY

Bleeding Wine and Gold

May 5th, 2009
7:18 pm

The only way we will lose tonight is if we come out flat and miss open shots. Lebron doesn’t have to go to the basket to break you down. If you can defend the pick and roll with Z setting the pick or the Lebron/MoWilliams pick and roll, you might have a chance. The Cavs RUN their offense. They don’t play wild and out of control like the Heat. You will have no choice but to start fouling Lebron, Z, AV, MoWilliams, etc. Then, and only then, in the 4th quarter, will the KING assert himself to put you out your misery to make it 5 playoffs wins in a row. I’ll be back after the game to further discuss your discontent for the HAWKS ineptitude.

Bart

May 5th, 2009
7:52 pm

Bleeding sounds to me like he is one of those who goes out and picks the best team for that year and puts out all his gibberish so he can sound like he is really a smart guy instead he sounds like an idiot. First of all we won’t be guarding him as he makes it sound in the blog, the hawks will. I bet you couldn’t dribble a slushy down your mouth much less a BB.

SWAT Native

May 5th, 2009
7:54 pm

Sekou,

Just saw you on NBA TV. Nice job. Respect.

Blast

May 5th, 2009
7:58 pm

It sucks that FSS was not allowed to broadcast Hawks last two game sevens. Now they can’t even show any second round series? We got to listen to TNT and ESPN crew for as long as Hawks are playing? That just double sucks. Might be time to break out the Radio.

bigdave

May 5th, 2009
7:58 pm

Hawks can ill afford a slow 0-for start… can’t get behind early.. if we get this game i like our chances in the series… chances that are better than what we are given credit for.. if you have watched this match-up all season its clear that we match up well with them..

it is key that we heavily contest jump shooters early… do not give open looks and give them confidence from 18 ft. on out…

LETS GO HAWKS…!!! LETS GO HAWKS…!!! LETS GO HAWKS…!!!

bigdave

May 5th, 2009
8:00 pm

agreed blast…

we dog em’ out.. but they’re still our guys…
im just happy for Bob… im sure he’s watching with anticipation just like us…!!!

otisfirefly

May 5th, 2009
8:03 pm

New drinking game. Everytime you see a commercial preview for Meet the Browns during TNT broadcast…..TAKE A DRINK

Blast

May 5th, 2009
8:04 pm

Watch the Commish suck up on leBron’s nuts.

Melvin

May 5th, 2009
8:05 pm

Dang, was the commissioner was going to say that Lebron has lead his team to the Championship. Talking about a major gaffe or a predetermine prediction on his part….lol

Macaroni Tony

May 5th, 2009
8:06 pm

I feel you Blast

Melvin

May 5th, 2009
8:07 pm

Joe, remember what Hakeem Olajuwon did to Dave Robinson when he received the trophy…. Let’s do it to the MVP again…

Blast

May 5th, 2009
8:07 pm

Oh, God it’s Dick Stockton! Probably with Fratello and Gundy! Nightmare!

otisfirefly

May 5th, 2009
8:12 pm

I say, let LBJ get his. Stop everyone else from getting theirs, & we’ll be ok

Blast

May 5th, 2009
8:14 pm

Though game 1 is Hawks best chance of stealing one in Cleveland, I don’t think that will happen. Hawks just have to be competitive and aggressive, and please do not get off to a bad start!

bigdave

May 5th, 2009
8:15 pm

Moe Evans…

bigdave

May 5th, 2009
8:17 pm

Joe Johnson must be the most respected player in the league…

good start…

bigdave

May 5th, 2009
8:17 pm

i like Josh starting down low… i like it Woody..

Melvin

May 5th, 2009
8:18 pm

Bibby have to at least slow the guy down turning the corner…

Macaroni Tony

May 5th, 2009
8:20 pm

I like what I see so far

Najeh Davenpoop

May 5th, 2009
8:21 pm

I don’t think we could possibly have asked for a better first four minutes to the game. The Hawks are getting in passing lanes, challenging shots, and most importantly forcing the ball inside and not settling for jumpers. If they keep playing this way anything can happen.