The first round of the NBA Playoffs continues on Sunday as the Boston Celtics travel south to take on the Atlanta Hawks. The game is scheduled for a 7:00 pm start time and it will be televised live on TNT. Currently the odds have Atlanta favored by 1.5 points with the total sitting at 179.5 points for the contest.
Free Analysis: You can make the case that the Boston Celtics are one of, if not the most in-form team in the Eastern Conference after finishing with a 24-10 record since the All-Star break. It's been an impressive turn around for a team many people thought didn't have a chance after the opening months of the season. But more than that, this team is built for the playoffs. There’s the fact that the C’s have postseason-tested veterans. But more than that, their aging roster will benefit from the spaced-out series, which will keep them fresh. The Celtics came on strong in the second half of the season in large part because of the resurgence of PF Kevin Garnett. With C Jermaine O’Neal out for the season, Garnett slid over to center and has looked like his old self on both ends of the court. In the second half of the season, he averaged 17.5 PPG on 50.8% FG, and he remains one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in the NBA. SF Paul Pierce has settled back in as the team’s closer, and PG Rajon Rondo has handed out 10 or more assists in each of the past 24 games. The Celtics’ one question mark is the health of SG Ray Allen, their best pure shooter, who is nursing an ankle injury. Though SG Avery Bradley is a defensive upgrade and proved a capable scorer, Allen’s ability to catch and shoot from behind the arc can’t be duplicated. Meanwhile, the Hawks have also been impressive in their own right, managing to finish top four in the East after Al Horford went down with a serious injury at the start of the season. Led by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, the Hawks were again a dominate team at home, finishing with a 23-10 record at Phillips Arena. The Hawks do have a dangerous lead guard in Jeff Teague and Josh Smith is becoming a more effective player in the half court. But Joe Johnson is just a 41.3% FG shooter in his Hawks playoff career, and they’re still without Al Horford, erasing any significant low-post advantage against the smallish Celtics. In the absence of Horford this year, Josh Smith has averaged career-bests in points (18.8 per game) and rebounds (9.6 per game). He and Joe Johnson (18.8 points per game) do most of the heavy lifting in the scoring column. You wouldn't think it, but the Hawks have the edge over the Celtics in recent meetings, winning six of the past 10 between the two. Having said that, Boston did take two of the three regular season contests this season. In those three games, the final margins were all under five points, telling us these teams play it close. Head to head, the underdog is 4-0 ATS in the last 4 meetings. The Hawks are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 Conference Quarterfinals games. The Celtics on the other hand are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 Conference Quarterfinals games, 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 road games and 15-5-2 ATS in their last 22 games overall.
Free Pick: The Celts have had a chance to rest some of their starters down the stretch, so this tea, should be a bit fresh and the fact that the playoff games will be spread out a bit should help them stay fresh through the series. I don't feel the Hawks matchup well with the Celts here, especially in the low post where they just don't have the size to compete with the bigger Celtics. Atlanta has been good on offense down the stretch, averaging 108 ppg in their last 5 games, but it will not be that easy vs the rested Celtics, who have allowed just 89.3 ppg on the year and 90.6 ppg in their last 5. Atlanta's defense has been solid this year, but in their last 4 games (all at home) they have allowed 99 ppg. Atlanta will miss Horford in this series and their defense just isn't the standard of Bostons. The Celtics have been on a tear in the 2nd half of the year and will start this series with a small upset win.
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Betting Strategies: Hawks at Celtics
Host Marco D'Angelo and Pregame Pro Vegas Runner discuss their thoughts on how the books are going to handle this series as well as each team's strengths and weaknesses along with their personal predictions on who will win.