Among the bouquet of surprises in this most unpredictable of NBA playoffs, the one that gets me:
The Atlanta Hawks are good.
I mean playoff good. They’ve been regular season good for a few years now, but when the lights got brighter, the teams better and the defenses more focused the Hawks were not a threat.
But this season, they beat Orlando and sent that team’s fan into a very nervous state. Then they took Game 1 from the Bulls.
What is going on here? This is basically the same roster that scared nobody for the last couple years, why now?
The best of the Hawks bloggers, Brett LaGree broke it down at TrueHoop. And it starts with one thing we knew would be a boost — Jason Collins. The seldom-used big man allowed the Hawks to single cover Dwight Howard in the first round, then everyone else could stay home on shooters. And it worked.
But the biggest change is at point guard. For the past couple years, that was Mike Bibby. That was a problem. But in the first round it was Kirk Hinrich, brought in from the Bulls and he was good on Jameer Nelson, one of the few other Magic players who could create his own shot. Without Hinrich locking up Nelson it was a lot of Hedo Turkoglu. Advantage Hawks.
But Hinrich is down with a strained hamstring against the Bulls, forcing Jeff Teague into action. A talented backup point guard who never really developed for the Hawks. (Does anyone ever really develop for the Hawks? Another issue for another day.) LeGree explains:
The same “little used but showing he can ball in the playoffs” storyline is there for Zaza Pachulia. Which brings us to coach Larry Drew. Who came into the playoffs on the hot seat but now….
Beating the Bulls still seems unlikely at best. But in these playoffs… I’m done trying to figure it out. The Hawks go home for Game 3 and no outcome will surprise me anymore.