The Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics are set to take part in a seven-game brawl to begin the Eastern Conference Playoffs (you can find the game schedule here), and it's going to be a lot of fun to watch. Before we get to the playoff match-up, though, it is time to briefly look back at what transpired between the two teams during the regular season.
In short, the Hawks took three of the four contests in 2015-2016, but three of those games took place prior to the calendar flipping to 2016, meaning that their importance might be diminished a bit. Let's take a glance at what happened on the court.
Game One: Celtics 106, Hawks 93 (Nov. 13)
Boston's lone win in the season series happened to come in the first meeting. Celtics guard Isiah Thomas was the difference, scoring 17 points in the second half to lead the team to victory, and turnovers plagued the Hawks. Atlanta committed 16 giveaways in the game, and that helped in the recipe for a Boston victory, even as the Hawks out-shot the Celtics from the floor. Oh, did we mention that Boston came down with 17 offensive rebounds? That may have been a factor, too.
Game Two: Hawks 121, Celtics 97 (Nov. 24)
The second game of the season series also happened to be the most lopsided. Atlanta led throughout the game, but really pulled away with a dominant, 40-point fourth quarter that was really something to witness. Paul Millsap (25 points, 9 rebounds) was the star of the day for the Hawks, but it was a team-wide effort as Atlanta shot 56% from the floor and 50% from three-point range to improve to 10-6 on the season. Yes, it was still that early in the year.
Game Three: Hawks 109, Celtics 101 (Dec. 18)
Much like game two, Atlanta used a big fourth quarter to grab a victory, but this time, they needed it. The Celtics held a one-point lead prior to the final period, but Paul Millsap (there's that man again) scored 15 in the fourth to key a 38-28 advantage for the Hawks and a nine-point win. Isaiah Thomas was, again, a problem for the Hawks in that he scored 29 points on only 12 field goal attempts, but Atlanta forced 21 turnovers and played largely effective defense elsewhere on the way to a win.
Game Four: Hawks 118, Celtics 107 (Apr. 9)
Because of the proximity to present day, this will be the game that most remember and draw from in analyzing the upcoming series. It was a back and forth game for the majority of the night, but Atlanta's defense clamped down in a big way after halftime, holding the Celtics to only 36 points in the final 24 minutes of action. It was Millsap that keyed everything for Mike Budenholzer's team, putting together one of his best nights of the year with 31 points and 16 rebounds. In short, he looks like a bad match-up for Boston, and Jeff Teague also had his way with Thomas and the Boston backcourt in this particular spot.
In the next 48 hours, much will be made of the success that the Atlanta Hawks generated against the Boston Celtics this season. Operating with some level of caution is probably wise with regard to the regular season, simply because much of the action took place a long, long time ago. Still, the Celtics aren't exactly the worst match-up for the Hawks on the floor, and fans can take some solace in that prior to tip-off on Saturday evening. Stay tuned.