It was a much different season for the Hawks this time around. The team struggled to find consistency early but played their basketball at the end. A couple of unfortunate losses to end the season left them with the No. 4 seed and a match-up with a Celtics team that has the makings of a formidable opponent.
The middle part of the Eastern Conference was so tightly bunched that there is a measure of unpredictability heading into the postseason. It wouldn't be terribly surprising to see any of the Heat, Hawks or Celtics advance and pull off a second-round upset. It also wouldn't be terribly surprising to see any of the three fall in the first round.
For the Hawks, that could be big. This could be a pivotal offseason with plenty of questions to be answered within its roster. For now though, the focus is on the present and what should be a great first-round series against Boston.
We are going to be taking a position by position look at the match-up and up first is the point guard position which could be pivotal in determining the outcome.
Paul Millsap and Al Horford may garner a lot of the headlines but the point guard match-up in this series may prove to be the difference. For the Hawks, Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder provide a solid one-two punch for Mike Budenholzer. Teague was at the root of many of the inconsistencies that plagued the team in the early going but he found his groove as the season progressed. He knocked down a career-best 40 percent of his three-point attempts this season and the Hawks need him being aggressive throughout the series.
Schröder finished the regular season in a bit of a slump, but his quickness at both ends of the floor can be a factor. His ability defensively could provide Budenholzer with the opportunity to play Teague and Schröder together which might be an option depending on whether or not Tim Hardaway Jr is healthy for Game 1.
In much of the same way that Teague is the key for the Hawks, Isaiah Thomas drives the Celtics. Thomas had a stellar season averaging 22.2 points and 6.6 assists. Like Teague, Thomas' penetration into the paint drives Boston's offense and opens up lanes for shooters and driving lanes for cutters. Thomas averaged 20 points per game against the Hawks in the regular season, but Atlanta made him work for it holding him to 38 percent shooting.
In a series that is full of intriguing matchups, the point guard battle may be the one to focus on.