Celtics Begin Playoff Campaign
Saturday afternoon in the TD Garden, the Celtics begin another grueling playoff campaign as they look to rectify last year’s NBA Finals defeat. They’ll start with a best-of-seven series against a 41-41 Atlanta Hawks team that had an offensive rating of 116 and a defensive rating of 116.
This year’s Hawks set the NBA record for most times, sitting at a .500 record. Last week, days before Atlantas play-in matchup against Miami, a report came out that the Hawks front office has received approval from ownership to pursue a trade for star point guard Trae Young this summer.
So, safe to say the vibes are not excellent for Hawks Nation. Let’s take a further look at this series.
Examining Hawks Matchup
This Hawks team may have peaked back in 2021 when they made the Conference Finals, losing to Milwaukee in six games. Last summer, Atlanta went all-in on this current group, trading Danilo Gallinari and three first-round picks for San Antonio defensive stalwart Dejounte Murray.
The expectation was that Murray’s defensive presence would complement Young’s weaknesses and give the team another guard who can handle the ball. The results haven’t been great, and the biggest reason for that has to be Trae Young’s regression as a shooter.
Young’s skills as a playmaker (career-high 10.2 assists per game this year) and volume scorer are offset by inefficient shooting percentages and a reputation as a liability on defense. In five seasons as a pro, Young has yet to shoot 40% on threes and is a career 44% shooter from the field.
Look for the Celtics to hunt matchups against Young constantly. Aside from Young and Murray, the Hawks don’t really have reliable playmakers. They have an assortment of talented bigs, but so does Boston.
In Atlanta’s play-in game versus Miami, center Clint Capela dominated his matchup against Heat center Bam Adebayo with 21 rebounds. He’s going to be set to face Al Horford, whose ability to shoot the three (career-high 45% this season) will pull Capela away from the basket and allow Boston wings to attack the basket.
The Celtics swept the regular season series against Atlanta winning three games to none. While it’s tempting to project a sweep, we still have trauma from the 2007 playoff matchup between these two clubs, where the 8th-seed Hawks pushed the series to seven games.
My Prediction: Celtics win in 5.
What’s The Full Schedule For Hawks/Celtics?
Game 1: Atlanta at Boston, Saturday, April 15, 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Game 2: Atlanta at Boston, Tuesday, April 18, 7 p.m. on NBA TV
Game 3: Boston at Atlanta, Friday, April 21, 7 p.m. on ESPN
Game 4: Boston at Atlanta, Sunday, April 23, 7 p.m. on TNT
Game 5: Atlanta at Boston, Tuesday, April 25, TBD if necessary
Game 6: Boston at Atlanta, Thursday, April 27, TBD if necessary
Game 7: Atlanta at Boston, Thursday, April 27, TBD if necessary