The Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics will square off in Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs Saturday night at Philips Arena. It has become an annual tradition around these parts to offer up our predictions prior to the playoffs. So lets get to the picks.
This is going to be a lot of fun.
The Celtics and Hawks have had something of a "rivalry" for a long time, and while Boston has certainly gotten the better of it when it comes to the playoffs, Atlanta is seen as the favorite in this year’s series. I would subscribe to that theory, even after the borderline disastrous performance from Mike Budenholzer’s team that landed them in the 4-5 match-up.
Atlanta relied heavily on Paul Millsap in the regular season against Boston, and that will likely take place once again in the playoffs. Millsap is up to the challenge, but this is a difficult match-up in other ways, including the fact that the Celtics are a top-10 offensive rebounding team against a bottom-five defensive rebounding team in the Hawks.
In the end, Millsap, Horford, Teague and company will do enough to get by with the benefit of home court, but slowing down Isaiah Thomas might be the key to this whole thing. Hawks in 6.
I think it all comes down to the battle between the Hawks Jeff Teague and the Celtics Isaiah Thomas. Thomas has had a career year and let’s face it Teague has been inconsistent for much of the season. If the Hawks are going to win this series, and I believe they will, they will need Teague to be the Teague of the last quarter of the season and not what we witnessed for much of the season.
Everything else favors the Hawks but I will be interested in seeing how the Celtics handle Paul Millsap and Al Horford. Power Forwards are averaging 22 points and almost 12 rebounds a night and centers 20 points and 14 rebounds against the Celtics and I have no reason to believe the Celtics will be able to handle the Hawks explosive frontcourt.
Hawks in Five.
Boston’s been strong on the wings, weak in the frontcourt and I wouldn’t expect that to change. Millsap, Horford will play larger roles in any winning, along with the top ten driving (since the trade deadline) of Jeff Teague.
On the flip, Boston’s backcourt athleticism has given the Hawks their own problems and this series is going to be close, close, close.
Hawks in SEVEN, because, why make it easy and have everybody jump back on the bandwagon, when it’s more fun to slog it out and have everybody continue to hate, doubt and ignore.
The 2016 version of the Atlanta Hawks has been wildly inconsistent throughout the season. They put it together a bit over the final two months but two straight losses to end the season put just a bit of doubt back in my mind. That last loss in Washington was particularly painful in that it dropped the team to the fourth seed and set up a potential matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round.
That is if the Hawks can get by the Celtics. Atlanta took three of the four meetings during the regular season but things tend to change in the playoffs. Given the Hawks' schizophrenic play this season, I wouldn't be terribly surprised with any outcome. I believe homecourt advantage could be a major factor and for that reason I am taking the Hawks in seven close nail biting games. However, I'm not overly confident.
Harry Lyles Jr.
Boston is a young team with a bunch of great pieces. Brad Stevens is undoubtedly one of the best coaches in the league. On the flip side, we’ve seen Atlanta’s highs and lows, with many folks who let the sting of the lows settle in their minds far too often. But having guys like Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, and others who were along in a big role for the team last year will be a big factor.
The Celtics are certainly a team you don't want to overlook, and while I think they're more than capable of winning this series, I think the home court advantage will pay off for the Hawks, and they'll take it in seven games.
Will McGee (wmcgee)
I am really looking forward to this series....and I think it will be one of the more compelling first round series and completely worthy of a 4-5 matchup..
With all the talk this year about the Hawks rebounding, we held our own against the Celtics 41.0-41.5 on the boards...the 3-1 regular season advantage was due to the Hawks being efficient on the offensive end hitting over 50% from the field and holding the Celtics down to 42%. If the Hawks are efficient on both sides of the ball, then I think the series ends in 5...BUT, we have not seen the efficient Hawks night in and night out. I think our wings will be more consistent defensively than offensively and the Hawks stand up to take it in 7 games.
The Hawks lockdown defense will make this so fun to watch...
Brad Stevens is as good at coaching basketball as anyone on the planet. Boston is deep and Isaiah Thomas has become a star. Jae Crowder and company remain underrated. The Celtics have solved the Rubik’s cube of team balance and maximizing talent. They are set to be a force in the East for a long time even as they search to turn numerous assets into more athleticism...but the future has not arrived yet. The additions of Kris Humphries and an emerging Tim Hardaway give Atlanta depth and options to match the limitations of the Celtics’ roster and Stevens is not enough to make up the difference over last season’s coach of the year. Atlanta wins the series in 5 extremely competitive games.
It all comes down to defensive intensity. If the Hawks bring it Boston will suffer. If the Hawks give up open looks Boston has enough talent to make the Hawks pay. History tells me that the Hawks can’t keep it together for a sweep, but I do feel comfortable that they can do it often enough to win in 6.
I mentally cannot take another Hawks playoff series against the Celtics. Celtics are an aggravating team that should not be overlooked. I do think it is a bit mislead that the Celtics do not have any talent since I believe that they have a better bench. That said the Hawks do have 2 of the 3 best best players in what should be a fun series. It will be fun to see how the Hawks defend the Celtics backcourt and if they are not afraid to have Millsap/Horford defend on the perimeter in certain situations. Paul Millsap has had huge success against the Celtics through the season so I expect to see the Hawks give him every opportunity to continue that success.
Hawks in 6 annoyingly, Nothing-Easy, competitive games.
While easy to overlook Boston, I think this is actually an interesting matchup for the Hawks. While there is that aura of emergence surrounding Boston, this stage is a little too big for them at this point. The Lack of production(shooting wise) from Bradley, the uneasy shooting of Smart, there isn't enough fire power to drag this series out past 5 games. Hawks in 5