The Celtics should be able to take care of the Hawks in four games during the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Here are a few reasons why:
- The Celtics swept the season series. The final margins were all by at least ten points, but the Hawks held close in a few of the games.
- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen are all well-rested and will continue to get rest through the first round series. After Sunday, the Celtics remain at home to take on the Hawks on Wednesday.
- The Celtics had one of the best single-season records in NBA history, finishing 66-16. In stark contrast, the Hawks struggled to make the playoffs at 37-45. The difference: 29 games, which is the most since the 1996 Chicago Bulls had 30 more wins than the Miami Heat and swept them in three games.
Key Player Match-up:
Rajon Rondo vs. Mike Bibby
- The other match-ups aren’t really close. Kevin Garnett is still ahead of Josh Smith, though Smith is emerging as a legitimate NBA player. Paul Pierce is far ahead of Marvin Williams…and Joe Johnson is a bit ahead of an aging Ray Allen.
- The key match-up to watch is how a young, speedy Rajon Rondo plays against a cagey veteran in Mike Bibby. Bibby is playoff-tested after going numerous times in the late 90′s and early 00′s with the Kings. Sure, they lost all the time to the Lakers, but they were still a fun bunch to watch. Rondo will be playing in his first playoff series, and even though he’s made some significant strides, there still is more to be learned.
- The point guard position becomes more important in the postseason, as the PG needs to be well-balanced overall, and especially strong on defense. Rondo has quick hands and can poke at the ball, much like Bibby. It should be fun to watch those two square off.
What to expect: The Celtics should win this in 4, but don’t be surprised if the Hawks steal one at home. (Yes, if the Hawks win it’s stealing, even if it’s at home). Watch for the Big Three to continue to play 30-35 minutes and not 40 as they get ready for a second-round tilt against the Cavs or Wizards.
PREDICTION: Celtics 4, Hawks 1
Tags: Atlanta Hawks, Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Mike Bibby, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen