Scoreboard Watching: 5 Seed is Atlanta’s If They Want It
With the Chicago Bulls‘ loss to the Miami Heat Sunday afternoon, the Hawks now have sole possession of the five seed with two games to play.
Atlanta can finish no worse than sixth, so it’s a matter of who the Hawks want to play. If they feel more comfortable playing the Indiana Pacers first to avoid Miami’s side of the bracket, then resting starters and dropping one of the final two might be okay. If they want the Brooklyn Nets, who I think are a much better matchup for the Hawks, then the focus should be on winning these final two to lock up #5.
Personally, I don’t understand the argument that I’m hearing about “avoid Miami in the second round.” Let’s be realistic. The Heat have the best chance of any team in the East to reach the conference finals. So does it really matter whether you play them in the second round or third? I’d rather have a good first-round matchup, and that’s what the Hawks will get if they finish five. Brooklyn is a much more winnable series than Indiana. The Pacers give the Hawks matchup problems at almost every position, they have a deeper bench, and they have size. Brooklyn is formidable, no doubt, but the Hawks have proven they can run on the Nets, which will be the key for them to win any series. They also have a win in Brooklyn but have yet to win in Indianapolis.
Can the Hawks beat either team in a seven-game series? If they play well, the answer is yes. But I don’t think you risk playing a tougher first-round opponent to get the second-round matchup you want. Take the five, playing the beatable opponent and see where the cards fall. Besides, we saw what happened with last year’s #1 seed – the Bulls lost Derrick Rose and couldn’t even get out of the first round. Of course I’m not hoping any Heat players get hurt, but you just can’t predict playoff basketball. Maybe the Bucks get hot and beat Miami? Stranger things have happened.
Biggest winner: Hawks
Atlanta needed two Bulls losses before the weekend started. They got what they needed.
Biggest loser: Bulls
Chicago would much rather see Brooklyn than Indiana. They’ll be rooting against the Hawks this week to make that happen.
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