The Atlanta Hawks enter the playoffs as heavy favorites over the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. In fact you have to look long and hard to find any major outlet that is predicting the series to go past five games. Here is a look at what some pundits are looking for in Atlanta's first round series:
Former Hawks beat writer and current NBA.com scribe Sekou Smith predicts the Hawks will defeat the Nets in five games.
You don't win at the rate the Hawks did during the regular season and allow this series to stretch beyond five or six games. With all of the injuries and resting that went on after the All-Star break, and after they locked up the No. 1 seed, it appeared the Hawks might have lost their edge. No way. And it took the Nets, a team that finished the regular season with a paltry 8-20 record against the seven other playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, until the final night of the regular season to punch their postseason ticket. Hawks in 5.
Adi Joseph previews the playoffs for the Sporting News and picks the Hawks in a first round sweep over the Nets.
The Hawks dominated the regular season and finished with a franchise-record 60 wins ... yet they get zero respect. So yes, you'll see some people picking the veteran Nets (who are a whole lot less veteran than they were last year) to win at least a few games. But Atlanta picks apart slow-it-down teams and simply is better in every facet than Brooklyn, which squeaked into the playoffs with a Pacers loss on the final day.
Sports Illustrated's Deantae Prince also picks the Hawks in a sweep over the Nets.
Hawks in four. Based on everything listed above, it's hard not to pick the Hawks. As Hollins suggested, they have every advantage to fall back on and the Nets can only hope to slow them down. Despite their great success, few teams actually fear the Hawks, but the Nets have every reason to be afraid. It's hard to measure how long the Hawks' run will last, but there is little doubt they could sleepwalk through the first round.
On one hand, FoxSports' Sam Amico says that the Atlanta Hawks may be the best team ever to enter the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder due to being overlooked by virtually everyone. He then mentions that the Nets have some battle tested veterans but probably not enough to make it a series. Then he picks Atlanta to win in six?
The Nets, on the other hand, sort of backed into the postseason on the final day, relying on a loss by the Indiana Pacers to even make it. Still, key Nets such as Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams are battle-tested veterans. The real question is, do they have enough around them to make this a series? Probably not. Prediction: Hawks in six.
Elsewhere, CBSSports.com's staff unanimously picks the Hawks to advance in the first round with three of the five panelists predicting a sweep. Both Matt Moore and Ken Berger think it will take Atlanta five games to dispatch Brooklyn.
Its the same story over at Yahoo Sports where all six of their NBA writers predict a first round series win for Atlanta. Four are predicting sweeps while Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears think the Hawks will need five games to advance.