Season series: Atlanta 3-1
11/13: Celtics 106-93
11/24: Hawks 121-97
12/18: Hawks 109-101
4/9: Hawks 118-107
First Round Schedule:
Game 1: 4/16 in Atlanta, 7:00 on ESPN
Game 2: 4/19 in Atlanta, 7:00 on TNT
Game 3: 4/22 in Boston, 8:00 on ESPN2
Game 4: 4/24 in Boston, 6:00 on TNT
Game 5 (If necessary): 4/26 in Atlanta, TBA
Game 6 (If necessary): 4/28 in Boston, TBA
Game 7 (If necessary): 4/30 in Atlanta, time TBA on TNT
Jeff Teague vs. Isaiah Thomas
Winner: Isaiah Thomas
Jeff Teague vs. Isaiah Thomas is the series key matchup. Both are great point guards, but Thomas means more to the Celtics than Teague does to the Hawks. Thomas is the the Celtics best player and the beat to their offensive drum. He is an electric scorer who is a lightning bolt in the lane. His game is fearless and isn’t afraid of contact. When Isaiah is hot, the Celtics win. When Isaiah is cold, the Celtics lose. That Thomas led comeback victory against Miami to end the season should scare the Hawks.
Kyle Korver vs. Avery Bradley
Winner: Avery Bradley
The 2015-2016 NBA season was Avery Bradley’s best offensive season. Kyle Korver had a dip in production after a stellar 2014-2015 campaign. Bradley averaged a career high 15.2 points per game this season, but he is still a defensive minded player. He averaged 1.5 steals per game, his career high. Also, Bradley plays with a lot of emotion and developed a reputation as one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA. Korver won’t have much space to shoot in the first round.
Kent Bazemore vs Jae Crowder
Winner: Jae Crowder
Jae Crowder is the Celtics force. Crowder is the Celtics best defensive player and sets the defensive tone. He has a motor that never stops and will do whatever it takes to win. 2016 was Crowder’s first season he averaged double-digit points per game and posted career highs in blocks, steals, assists and rebounds. His improvement and intensity is an inspiration to the rest of the team. Even though Isaiah is the Celtics best player, Crowder is the Celtics identity.
Paul Millsap vs. Amir Johnson
Winner: Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap is the best player in this series. He is a versatile power forward who is a rebounding machine and can stretch the floor. Millsap played in all four games against the Celtics this season. He averaged 22.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. His shooting percentages equaled 57.6 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three. Millsap is no longer the NBA’s most underrated player. If Amir Johnson doesn’t slow down Millsap, the Celtics will struggle.
Al Horford vs. Jared Sullinger
Winner: Al Horford
Another NBA season, another NBA Playoffs appearance for Al Horford. He hasn’t missed the playoffs in his entire NBA career. Horford is an athletic freak who plays a consistent game. He averaged 15-19 points and 7-10 rebounds per game over the last four seasons. This offseason, Horford is entering unrestricted free agency. Decent playoff numbers would help him make more money. The Celtics size gives Horford a great opportunity to shine in the first round.
Winner: Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics have one of the best benches in the NBA. Bead Stevens utilizes it early and often. Their bench is highlighted by Marcus Smart, Evan Turner and Kelly Olynyk. Stevens also utilizes Jonas Jerebko and Tyler Zeller depending on the game situation. Stevens always has someone ready to come off the bench. The Celtics bench is third in the NBA in scoring. The Hawks are 18th. The depth on the Celtics wins them basketball games.
Mike Budenholzer and Brad Stevens are the two best coaches in the Eastern Conference. Budenholzer won Coach of the Year in the 2014-2015 NBA season. Stevens is a potential candidate for the 2015-2016 NBA season. These coaches are very similar. Both coach team basketball but focus on defense. They have players that believe in their systems and can coach their teams to victory on a nightly basis. There is no clear winner in this coaching matchup.
Celtics in six