Here is a look at the Celtics first round opponents, the Atlanta Hawks. Point Guard: Mike Bibby, 6'2", 190 lbs, 29 years old 13.9 PPG, 6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 14.55 PER Bibby is a deadly outside shooter with a quick release, skills which make him among the league's better scoring point guards. Bibby isn't a natural pass-first point guard, and his assist ratios are annually much lower than the norm for his position. However, he doesn't over-dribble -- usually he just moves it into the high post and then waits for catch-and-shoot chances. Another trick of his is to go away from the screen on the screen-and-roll, something he does more than any player in basketball. Instead Bibby will fake that way, make a quick dribble left, and then shoot a jumper. Defensively, Bibby has become fairly useless and his help defense is cursory at best.
Shooting Guard Joe Johnson 6'7". 235 lb, 26 yr old 21.7 PPG, 5.8 APG, .381 3P%, PER 17.34 Though well-built at 6-7, 235 pounds, Johnson does most of his damage away from the basket. He has a smooth jump shot that he shoots comfortably off the dribble and off the catch. Johnson is a good ball handler for his size but lacks blazing speed, which is why his free-throw rate is fairly low for a big-time scorer. However, he's a good finisher when he gets to the rim and at his size he can destroy smaller guards on post-ups. Defensively, Johnson's size is a major asset and he's quick enough to defend shooting guards. This part of his game has taken a bit of a back seat as his offensive responsibilities have increased -- Atlanta rarely asks him to defend A-list scorers but in the playoffs, he will be matched up with Ray Allen. Ray scored 33 points in his only game against the Hawks this season and could be a big factor if his shot is on in this series.
Small Forward Marvin Williams 6'9". 230 lbs, 21 yr old 14.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.7 APG 14.53 PER Williams is a solid midrange jump shooter as he has a smooth stroke that he can comfortably convert from 20 feet. Williams clearly has the form to hit the longer shot -- he often shoots from just a foot inside the line -- but has rarely attempted it as a pro and is at only 24.5 percent for his career. He's also a good finisher in transition, but he has no post game. Williams is stronger at the defensive end, where he is quick enough to switch out against guards and has the size to bother opposing shooters. He does a solid job against most small forwards and can even play bigger shooting guards; the Hawks sometimes used him as a defensive stopper against A-list scorers. When matched up against Paul Pierce, he will definitely have his work cut out for him defensively.
Power Forward Josh Smith 6'9", 235 lbs, 22 years old 17.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.8 BPG 19.08 PER Smith's leaping ability is his greatest asset, with a quick lift off the floor. The lefty excels at taking his rebounds and heading up court with them. He almost certainly started more transition opportunities than the Hawks' guards, and he's a great finisher at the end of the play. Smith is a good passer, but has a high dribble and can be turnover prone, especially when he tries to attack in the half court. That's one reason he settles for the jumper quite a bit, something opponents try to bait him into. He's an awesome weak-side shot-blocker, but tends to lose sight of his man away from the ball and rarely boxes out. He will have a challenge trying to match up with Kevin Garnett on both ends of the court in this series.
Center Al Horford 6'10", 235 lb, 22 years old 10.1, 9.70 RPG 1.5 APG Horford is a candidate for Rookie of the Year. He has a wide body and is very strong with long arms. He has good quickness and athleticism. He is a defensive presence inside. He finds a way to score down low and also has a decent mid range shot. He is foul prone, however. Perk should match up well with him.
Bench Josh Childress, Zaza Pachulia, Salim Stoudamire, Mario West, Jeremy Richardson, Solomon Jones, Acie Law
Josh Childress is their key player off the bench. He is averaging 11.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 1.5 APG off the bench. He is a solid two-way player. Childress is an athletic wing who is a strong finisher around the basket and an outstanding offensive rebounder. He also draws fouls at a high rate and converts from the charity stripe. At 6-8, Childress' size makes him a good defender against bigger wing players and an excellent roamer in zones, although he can be outmuscled by wide bodies in post-ups. He always plays well against the Celtics and will be the key player to stop off the bench.
The Celtics biggest advantage in this series, besides their three stars, is going to be their bench. The Hawks can't match the Celtics depth with Posey, House, Powe, Cassell, Brown, Davis, and Tony Allen all playing very well, the Hawks just can't match that off their bench.
The Key Matchup in this series is going to be Rajon Rondo vs Mike Bibby at the point where speed and youth will be matched up with experience. Rondo has answered every question and every challenge above and beyond all expectations this season and I have to feel that he will continue to exceed expectations in the playoffs as well.
I can't wait for these games to start. I think the Celtics should have an easy time with Hawks and should sweep the series, but the Hawks are young and athletic, the kid of team that has given us problems over the season. Hopefully the Celtics will come out with focus and dominate the series. Bring it on!!! Winning is the Only Option!