In the East, the Atlanta Hawks (47-35), who captured the fourth seed, will play the Miami Heat (43-39), the fifth seed, in round one. The Hawks took the regular season series three games to one. In their final meeting on April 14, Atlanta beat Miami by just two points. Only four games separated these teams in the standings.
On both sides of the ball, these clubs are evenly matched. Atlanta’s PF/PA average stands at plus-1.6. Atlanta held opponents to 96.5 PPG while scoring 98.1 PPG. The Heat, whose PF/PA stands at just plus-0.3, put up an average of 98.3 PPG. Both teams finished the season by going five-and-five in their final 10 games. Both were much better when playing at home, which gives the Hawks an edge in the series.
Shooting guard Joe Johnson is the leading point scorer for the Hawks, averaging 21.4 PPG. He also dished off 5.8 APG. His three-point shot is good 36% of the time and he hit free throws at the rate of 83%. His quick hands served him well on defense as he notched 1.06 SPG. At the power spot, Josh Smith can be massive, pulling down 7.2 rebounds, stealing 1.36 balls and blocking 1.6 shots per game. His 15.6 points make him a solid scorer. First-year center Al Horford has put up impressive rookie numbers, logging 11.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per contest. Six guys on the team are good for double digit scoring at any given time. Veteran backcourt man Mike Bibby dished off 5.0 assists, hit for 14.9 points and stole 1.24 balls per contest. There’s a load of depth on this team.
Miami grabbed the third spot in the Southeast as Atlanta finished ahead of them in second in the same division. Although it would be inaccurate to call the Heat a one-man team, they are close to it with shooting guard Dwayne Wade leading the charge on both ends of the court. Wade has been stellar, scoring an average of 30.2 PPG. Along with leading the team in points, Wade also topped the club in assists with 7.5 per contest. Additionally, he leads the Heat in steals (2.19) and is second in blocks (1.34). Center Jermaine O’Neal, who came over from Toronto in a midseason deal, averaged 2.0 BPG. He’s been good for 13.3 PPG and 6.4 RPG. There’s a bit of worry on the part of Miami as O’Neal, who’s aging, suffered a calf injury a few days ago. Although Wade is a point machine, four other players averaged double digits in scoring. Power forward Udonis Haslem is the primary rebound artist with 8.2 per contest.
Although the two clubs are fairly evenly matched, the Hawks put a much better all-around team on the court while Miami has one of the best players in the league on its roster. Look for the Hawks to win this series in six games. The Heat simply lack the depth to sustain a winning series.