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News » Hawks or Heat? To Cavs, it doesn't matter

Hawks or Heat? To Cavs, it doesn't matter

Hawks or Heat? To Cavs, it doesn't matter
One team features guard play as its main offensive weapon. So does the other.

One team was defeated by the Cavs in three out of four close contests this season. So was the other.

So which team did Cavaliers players cheer for when they gathered Wednesday night to watch Game 5 between the Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat? Which team would they rather face in the Eastern Conference semifinals?

It truly doesn't matter, because the teams appear to be fairly similar.

"It's not like we're preparing for a Shaq [O'Neal] and a Kobe [Bryant], a guard and a big man," Cavs point guard Mo Williams said. "We know with Miami it starts and ends with D-Wade, and with Atlanta it starts and ends with Joe Johnson. It's two guards that do a lot for the team."

It's the details that matter, of course. Dwyane Wade is not only the guard who does a lot for Miami, but a close friend of LeBron James who is also in contention for NBA MVP this season by averaging 30.2 points and 7.5 assists per game.

He is one of a select few players in the league - James counts himself, the Lakers' Bryant and the Celtics' Paul Pierce among the others - who can devastate a team and not be stopped when his offense heats up.

He saw Pierce do that with a game-winning jumper against Chicago on Tuesday and said he saw the same thing from the Boston guard in last year's playoffs.

"Once a guy like that gets going, there's nothing you can do about it," James said. "You may be able to run a guy at him and double-team him, but once Paul, Kobe, Dwyane and myself get going in this league, no matter who you run at them, there's nothing you can do."

James often says he prefers to play the best, so it's no surprise that his regular-season scoring average against Miami and Wade was 31.8 points, while he averaged 26.3 points against Atlanta.

Playing against the best brings out the best in James.

"I'm real competitive," James said. "I hate to lose at anything I do, even if I'm not the best at it."

The Heat added center Jermaine O'Neal this season, an active big man who averaged 13 points and 5.8 rebounds.

Atlanta, meanwhile, features Johnson (21.4 ppg) and a supporting cast of point guard Mike Bibby (14.9 ppg), a point guard once coveted by the Cavs.

Average scores this season between the teams were so similar that mere decimal points are the difference; the average Miami score was 98.5-94.8, the average Atlanta score was 98-94.

"Each team has similarities and differences," Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said. "They're a little bit similar, but also different; the way we would approach them would be different."

LeBron's greatest strength: James groaned when recalling defending Pierce during last year's seven-game playoff series loss to Boston, explaining that once Pierce received the ball at the right elbow - his "spot" - it was impossible to defend him, no matter how closely James shadowed.

That's exactly what Pierce did against the Bulls on Tuesday night, helping the Celtics grab a 3-2 series edge against Chicago with a 106-104 win in overtime.

"There's nothing you can do about it," James said.

"Defensively you can be one of the best in the league, but once guys like that get in that zone. . . . There's a few guys we have in our league - I think four of the best are myself, Kobe, Paul and Dwyane - once we get to that spot, it doesn't matter who is on us."

So what's James' "spot"?

"Every part of the court," he said, smiling.

Hold your horses: Ilgauskas has a theory about fans who think the NBA should just skip over doldrums of the playoffs and pit the Cavs against the Lakers in the NBA Finals so everyone can see LeBron vs. Kobe.

"I think it's people getting bored," he said. "For us, we'll take it one step at a time. We've seen too many times teams get too confident in the playoffs and it will cost them."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4654

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: May 1, 2009


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