The Atlanta Hawks looked pretty good in their NBA Play-In Tournament game against the Miami Heat. In fact, in some ways, they were dominant. But the chances that they will look that imposing against the Boston Celtics aren’t as good.
BetOnline patrons will see Game 1 of the best-of-seven series between these teams at 3:30 PM ET at the TD Garden.
Boston is the second seed in the Eastern Conference, and they overcame some early drama as coach Ime Udoka was suspended for the season over a personal incident that we still don’t know all the details about. Assistant coach Joe Mazzulla took over on very short notice, and the Celtics are arguably the second-best team in the league.
If you have followed this team, you know that they live off of the defense. This season, they have been third-best when it comes to their opponents’ Effective Field Goal Percentage. They are also the best defensive-rebounding team in the NBA, which means that when they make the stop, they can finish it. Also, they have been one of the top favourite teams on many NBA betting sites.
Atlanta has not been close to the top of the heap when it comes to defense. The Hawks are 22nd it that “eFG %” category and they may have a difficult time when it comes to the second unit. But they have the potential to be better than they seem, as we will expand upon in a moment.
As we mentioned, the Hawks were impressive against Miami in a 116-105 road win. They came to play, and that was reflected in the huge difference between the teams in offensive rebounds (22-6) and second-chance points (26-6). So their chances may lie in being able to keep up the momentum for head coach Quin Snyder.
In the NBA playoff odds that have been posted on this game by the people at BetOnline, the Celts are laying double digits:
Boston Celtics -10
Atlanta Hawks +10
Over 231.5 Points -110
Under 231.5 Points -110
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It appears as if the Hawks will count on outshooting the other team. They actually made more field goals than any other club in the league this season. And, of course, Trae Young is going to be attacking the hoop. That puts some pressure on the Boston big men, and if they have Grant Williams, Al Horford, and Robert Williams able to rotate in and out of the lineup, they can clog up the lane.
There’s a big challenge for Marcus Smart here. The former NBA Defensive Player of the Year is dealing with a stiff neck, and any physical limitation is a liability against Young.
If you want to talk about challenges, we’d have to say the Hawks need to get out to the perimeter to challenge the Celtics’ long-range marksmanship. Boston is second in the NBA in both three-point attempts and three-pointers made. Young is not known as a defender, and that will be a point of emphasis.
So will be the idea of taking Atlanta center Clint Capela out of his comfort zone. Capela is an inside player, but if Boston puts a small, quick lineup on the floor, it may make him come out a little.
Still, you can’t ignore the fact that the Swiss native is a force to reckon with. He ranks second in the NBA in defensive rebounds, and the lane is not safe if he’s patrolling it.
Atlanta actually has some defensive capability. Guard Dejounte Murray has been on the NBA All-Defensive team. Forward DeAndre Hunter will get there soon enough; when he was playing at Virginia, he was named Defensive Player of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. And no one is going to question Capela’s defensive chops.
We don’t know if we’re saying that this will help Atlanta keep this very close, but it may be enough to make this a much lower-scoring game than the last meeting, which resulted in a 134-125 Celtics victory.
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