The Boston Celtics are facing off with the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. The Celtics went 1-3 against the Hawks this year, so how will they fare in a seven-game series?
The Celtics have lost their last three games to the Hawks; two on the road and one at home. Their first playoff game will be on Saturday in Atlanta, and since the Hawks have homecourt advantage for the series, the Celtics need to come out and make a statement in the opening game.
In their last game against the Hawks on Apr. 9, Millsap had 31 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks. He straight up dominated the Celtics, who need to contain him if they want to have a good shot at winning the series. Jae Crowder should guard Millsap for a majority of the series because he might be the only guy on the roster that can handle him.
The Celtics struggle guarding players in frontcourt like Millsap and Horford, which is why they might have to go small, so Crowder can help out with frontcourt defense.
Boston has showed that they do have much trouble scoring against the Hawks in the past (even though they are No. 2 in the league in overall defensive rating), which is why the team needs to focus on defense. The Celtics play their best basketball when the defense is clicking. They are going to have to force turnovers and get the big stops down the stretch to beat this tough Hawks team.
Isaiah Thomas is also going to have to play at a high level during this series. He averaged 20.5 points per game in four games against the Hawks this season, and he will need to keep that scoring up. Thomas is going to have to step up like he has in the past against Atlanta, but the defense is really going to have to step up.
If the Celtics can force turnovers and score off those turnovers, then the team should have a good shot at winning the series. It is not going to be easy at all, especially since they do not have homecourt advantage, but they have what it takes to knock them off.
The series is going to come down whether or not the Celtics can contain the Hawks’ frontcourt. If they can do that, then the team will be in a really good position to win the series. The Celtics should win the series in seven games because they are pretty even, but Boston’s ability to force turnovers and play great team defense should lead them to a victory over the Hawks.
Watch for the matchup between Jae Crowder and Paul Millsap because if Crowder can slow down Millsap, the Celtics should win the series.
The Hawks are favored to win this series, but Boston has what it takes to knock off Atlanta, especially if they can contain Millsap.