Pump Up Music: Green Day -- "Brain Stew"
The Big Picture: All of a sudden, before anyone realized it, the Atlanta Hawks have come to a place where they seem to believe they're dark horse contenders in the Eastern Conference. Maybe it's because they pushed the Celtics to the brink a couple years ago and then outslugged the Heat in the first round last year before getting swept by the Cavs. It certainly looks like progress.
However, their limitations are still the same as they've been the past few years and the questions they have to answer are the same. Can Mike Bibby continue to stave off the aging process? Is it really the best use of the team's resources to play Bibby and Jamal Crawford at the nominal point guard position when both are very fond of shooting, when Joe Johnson and Josh Smith are also there and need touches?
Key to Victory: So far this season, Crawford has been gunning and gunning and gunning to pretty good effect. Comparing the Hawks' first unit to the Cats' first unit, there are advantages and disadvantages, but the second unit is where the Cats simply don't have anyone to match up with someone like Crawford. If Crawford plays "point guard", be afraid, very afraid, of a mini-repeat of his 50-point game at the Cable Box last year because D.J. Augustin won't be able to deal with him, and Raymond Felton can't play the whole game. If they can figure out a way to shut him down, either with an adjustment or if the Hawks have Crawford split time with Johnson more than Bibby, that'll probably be the difference between a close win and the team's first home loss.
There's one major trend developing this season: If we win, it will be because of defense. Let up on D, and we can't really hope for the offense to step up.
Detail That Might Interest .08% of You: Joe Johnson's full first name is Joe. Not Joseph. Not something else. Joe.