By Tyler Sullivan Follow on Twitter @TylerSully
The Celtics are down in Atlanta for the first round of the NBA Playoffs. They’ll play a Hawks team that has had success against Brad Stevens’ squad in the regular season boasting a 3-1 overall record.
Brad Stevens says, "'Sometimes the whole 'Playoffs versus the regular season' gets overdone" in terms of how different the game is.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 16, 2016
Here are some things you should know going into Game 1.
Al Horford Jared Sullinger
Paul Millsap Amir Johnson
Kent Bazemore Jae Crowder
Kyle Korver Avery Bradley
Jeff Teague Isaiah Thomas
The Celtics averaging 102.8 points per game to Atlanta’s 110.3 shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise because of how the Hawks score. They are a team led by their front court of Al Horford and Paul Millsap.
Horford is a +12.1 against Boston this season while averaging 14.3 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Millsap has owned the Celtics in their four matchups this season averaging 22.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3 assists.
In terms of Boston scoring, it begins and ends with Isaiah Thomas who averaged 20.5 points per game against the Hawks this season.
Atlanta is also lethal at passing the basketball. They are second in the NBA averaging 25.6 assists per game.
It will be the job of Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson to try and lock down these Atlanta bigs. Jae Crowder may also be asked to try his hand at guarding Millsap.
It certainly is a mismatch for Boston trying to guard Atlanta’s bigs. Teams that are built from the backcourt to the front court are a much better matchup for the C’s due to Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart’s defensive prowess.
That being said, Smart and Bradley will have their work cut out for them trying to stop Kent Bazemore and Kyle Korver who are both very good beyond the 3-point line.
As it relates to the Hawks guarding Thomas, Jeff Teague will most likely get the assignment. Teague has the hight advantage, but Thomas should be able to get his own.
Over the course of the season Boston’s defense has been fantastic, but towards the end of the regular season they allowed 118 points to the Hawks and 114 to the Charlotte Hornets. They’ll have to clean that up and get back to their old ways to win this series.
In the regular season the Hawks had the second best defensive rating in the NBA, while the Celtics had the fifth.
The Playoffs begin Saturday night in Atlanta. pic.twitter.com/ZZYdPosUdE
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 14, 2016
The Celtics and Hawks both come into tonights game after playing on Wednesday. They both had Thursday, Friday and most of the day Saturday to rest up for Game 1. Over the course of the season when each team had three or more days of rest, the Hawks went 3-3 and the Celtics went 2-2.
Here is how each team responds offensively (PPG) to rest:
Days Off 0 1 2 3+
Atlanta 104.4 102.5 105.3 99.3
Boston 107.0 106.3 102.3 101.5
Here is how each team responds defensively (points allowed) to rest:
Days Off 0 1 2 3+
Atlanta 99.3 99.1 97.7 101
Boston 105.3 102.3 100.8 98.3
The Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks in 6 games.