Are the Hawks a tough matchup for the Cavs?

During the Pacers game on Saturday night, Dominique Wilkins said many wonderful things. He let out a few whooes, restrained giving Al Horford a much needed "heat check" excuse, and whooed some more. But the item that really caught my ears was his emphatic statement that the Hawks match up great against the Cavs. The confidence seems a bit out of place since Atlanta was thoroughly dominated over four games, which I believe the layman calls "getting swept," in the playoffs last year. Of course in Nique's defense, the Hawks did give Cleveland one of its only 16 losses last year and if not for a questionable LeBron foul call might have made it 17. Plus, the Hawks were crippled in the playoffs. Literally. If crutches were legal, the Hawks would have used them to walk in that series and not for a strategic advantages.

But matching up well is not just about having a player or two another team can't guard. If that was the case, no one would match up well against the Cavs. It is about how a team can hide its weaknesses and flex its strengths. Is Cleveland a team that allows the Hawks to do this? I don't know. Like anything Nique says you have to parse first and distinguish crazy and insightful later.

Mike Bibby vs. Mo Williams

Mo Williams can drill from beyond the arc, but he only scores 1.7 points close to the basket. Plus, Williams is not much of a distributor only dolling out 4.8 assists per game with a pretty crappy A/TO rate. Basically, Mo Williams is a better offensive version of Mike Bibby. Which if you think about it is the best kind of guy for Mike Bibby. Sure Mike will go under screens and not close out fast enough and that might cost the Hawks a few three pointers, but we will not see a Tony Parker-esque take over.

1:1 advantage: Cavs

Overall advantage: Hawks

Joe Johnson vs. Delonte West

Of the Cavs eight losses, West did not play in three of them and played horrible in two others. Secretly, he is kind of the lynch pen for this team any night LeBron does not want to completely take over. When he is on his game, West handles the ball, hits big shots, and plays great defense. Fortunately for the Hawks, Joe Johnson almost doubles him in size. He should be able to finish on him and shoot over him whenever he wants. In some sense, this is the Cavs Lebron/Marvin matchup. West plays with tenacity and if Joe over dribbles, he is going to turn the ball over a lot against Delonte, and if Joe has to move over and guard LBJ some, West could easily put up some nice numbers against Jamal Crawford.

1:1 advantage: Hawks

Overall advantage: Hawks

Marvin Williams vs. LeBron James

For as non-nonchalant as Marvin is, he really seems to get up for playing against Paul Pierce and LBJ. He enjoys the challenge. And a Marvin that does not disappear on the court is a great Marvin whether he puts up a decent stat line or not. Guys that athletic and big make plays when they are involved. For LeBron's part, he has never gone off against the Hawks. Marvin has kept him at the phenomenal level and never let the guy move to transcendent. And honestly, if Marvin can hold James at 28 points, 8 boards, 8 assists. That is a win. Shockingly, that is a win.

1:1 advantage: Cavs

Overall advantage: Cavs.

Josh Smith vs. JJ Hickson/ Anderson Varejao

Josh Smith should dominate. The only thing standing in his way is mental toughness. And Varejao will test it. He will pick up charges on Josh Smith's sprint to the hole. He will flop. He will poke. He will do all the things we love about Zaza only slightly more annoyingly and better. If Josh Smith tries harder at getting back at him with rebounds and dunks and not pouty words and technicals, the Hawks are in a good spot. And unlike in past years where James just locked down Joe in the fourth, LeBron cannot take the challenge of guarding both Josh and Joe if those defensive matchups break down for the Cavs.

Al Horford vs. Shaquille O'Neal/Zydrunas Ilgauskas

A classic case of who imposes their will wins. Horford can run circles around Shaq or pull him out with his jump shot. Shaq can obtain dominating position with his size. Al has quickness Big Z has only read about it eastern European picture books but Ilgauskas can shoot three pointers (?!?) and rebound over Horford without jumping. That being said, no one is talking about all-star births for the Cavs centers. So big Al needs to step up and his teammates need to let him.

1:1 advantage: Push

Overall Advantage: Push

Jamal Crawford vs. Anthony Parker

I don't care if Anthony Parker starts games. And I don't care that Jamal Crawford can go cold. I am taking Jamal Crawford here.

1:1 advantage: Hawks

Overall advantage: Hawks

So there it is. A lot of moving parts, but it is tough to disagree with Nique. Then again only crazy coaches around all-star game time have ever looked at the Cavs as anything but the best player in the league and four above average role players. Atlanta needs three things for success, composure, trust, and prayer. LBJ can win either of these up coming games by himself, but if the Hawks can play five on five for 48 minutes and limit LeBron to playing with the efficiency of just one guy, they should know they have the better five.

In this back to back, the teams match up well. And a sweep by either side is unlikely, but oddly enough, I think the only team that expects to win both is the Hawks.

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