Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Hey, it's the playoffs! We'll miss the bad teams, but let's talk about the good ones. Today, the Eastern Conference, tomorrow the West. Let's NBA!

What Up?

I understand that Andrew Bogut(notes) won't play a lick and that the Hawks get better every day, but this can't help but be a competitive series. The sort of series that could see Atlanta sweep Milwaukee, but only do so by a total of 19 points. Think of it as the opposite of what the Hawks and Heat came through with last year, a seven-game series full of nasty blowouts.

Even though Bogut's biggest impact this season came on the defensive end, Milwaukee will have the most trouble scoring in this first-rounder. The Bucks ended the season 23rd in offensive efficiency, and though Atlanta doesn't exactly dominate defensively (13th in defensive efficiency), it doesn't take much to push Milwaukee toward a 14-point quarter. And Atlanta's seen Milwaukee's best: John Salmons(notes) averaged nearly 31 points against the Hawks during the regular season, but Atlanta still took two of three.

Two of three close contests, I might add, including an overtime win. Two of those games featured Bogut, I should also add, but the Bucks just defend well enough to keep things close even without their 7-footer. Enough to win? Even one game? That's tough. Milwaukee's had no success defending Joe Johnson(notes) this season, and the Hawks' interior play gets more refined for each and every minute they spends on the floor. If Marvin Williams(notes) continues his late-season burst, this could be a sweep.

Whatever the final record, expect things to stay competitive. NBA TV should be very happy. -- Kelly Dwyer

An Important Matchup
Joe Johnson vs. John Salmons

The Milwaukee Bucks have made their name on their coach, Scott Skiles. And he's made his name on defense, defense and Malik Allen(notes). So if the Bucks, without their best player, are going to beat the Hawks, they're going to have to counter Atlanta's best player. That means they need a big series from midseason acquisition John Salmons.

Along with Carlos Delfino(notes) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute(notes), Salmons will be tasked with containing the Hawks' leading scorer. But unlike those two, Salmons is going to have to try to somewhat match Johnson on offense. That's asking a lot from one guy, especially if he's John Salmons. -- Trey Kerby

An Unimportant Matchup
Zaza Pachulia's(notes) whole steez vs. Kurt Thomas'(notes) crazy eyes

Looking at Zaza Pachulia, you'd expect a nice guy. Or possibly a European hit man. Either way, I don't think his look is that of a guy who tries to fight Kevin Garnett. But that's what you get when you have Zaza Pachulia.

On the other hand, Kurt Thomas totally looks like he'd step to Garnett. But since he's closing in on 80, he's mellowed quite a bit. Maybe he should lend those eyeballs to Zaza to match his personality. -- Trey Kerby

Mark Eaton says...
Made-up thoughts on "going for it" in the NBA playoffs and in life, from the 7-foot-4 former Utah Jazz center and current celebrity motivational speaker.

I spent last night as I spend most nights -- listening to "Perfect Strangers," watching "Perfect Strangers," snacking on some pizza rolls and reading aloud from my dog-eared copy of a great little book called "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inside Basketball: 101 Great Hoops Stories from Players, Coaches and Fans." And when you think about it, what team has given its fans more soul-soup this year than the Bucks? The dawn of Squad 6, the matinee idol smile of Ersan Ilyasova(notes), that electrifying young fella from the dancing movies -- at every turn, this team has implemented the four steps in my patented CHOW process (NOTE: I literally have the patent on this):

1. Choose to change for the better;
2. Hold yourself accountable for your happiness;
3. Open yourself to the opportunities that optimism can bring;
4. Win 46 games and make the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06.

It's a Foolproof Four-Step Schematic for a Successful SeasonTM! And have you ever seen The Power of Positive Thinking defend the low block and finish in the paint? Yeah, neither has Al Horford(notes). But he's about to! (NOTE: Horford is not about to; he will be too busy visiting nuclear-grade evisceration upon Kurt Thomas, Dan Gadzuric(notes) and Primoz Brezec(notes) to see anything.) Enjoy that nice warm soul, Bucks fans!

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BDL playoff previews
Eastern Conference:  Cavs vs. BullsMagic vs. Bobcats | Celtics vs. Heat
Western Conference: Lakers vs. Thunder | Mavericks vs. Spurs | Suns vs. Trailblazers | Nuggets vs. Jazz

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