Boston (0-0) at Atlanta (0-0)
When: Saturday, April 16th 2016
Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA
Time: 7:05 ET | TV: ESPN
The Boston Celtics travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks in Game 1 of their first round NBA Playoff series. The Hawks, Celtics, Hornets, and Heat all had identical records in the East, but the Heat got the third seed followed by Atlanta and Boston. The Celtics caused the tiebreaker scenario on the final day of the regular season by overcoming a 24-point deficit to defeat Miami and bring that momentum into Game 1. Boston finished the season 20-21 on the road, but as a group, are happy to be here. “What more could you ask for than a chance? Play here, play there, play anywhere – let’s go compete,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters. All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas will need to break out of his shooting slump he suffered down the stretch. Thomas was 16-of-47 from the field over the final three games, beginning with a 6-of-19 effort in a loss at Atlanta on April 9th. Thomas averaged 20.5 points on 38.3% shooting in four games against the Hawks this season.
The Hawks dropped their final two regular-season games and four of the last seven but grabbed a key 118-107 home victory over Boston in that span and finished with a 27-14 home record. Atlanta was the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference at this time last spring but got off to a very slow start this season. The Hawks found some momentum in the second half of the season and ended up leading the league in defensive field goal percentage (43.2) while using a 14-3 stretch from February 26th to March 28th to vault themselves into contention for homecourt advantage in the first round. Boston took the first meeting this season but Atlanta won the next three by an average of 13.7 points.
These teams are pretty equal and I think one of them will win a road game in this series. Ultimately, I think the Hawks win the series, but each game will be tightly contested. Take the points tonight.
Pick: Celtics +5.5