Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks (-6, 205.5 o/u)
The first round of the NBA Playoffs in the Western Conference has been a complete joke, and now the best series in the East is in serious jeopardy. News that Avery Bradley is lost for the Boston Celtics (0-1, 0-1 Away) is a devastating blow as the team tries to even their series against the Atlanta Hawks (1-0, 1-0 Home) tonight at Philips Arena (7:00 PM Eastern).
Bradley was not only the Celtics’ second-leading scorer this season, but their best perimeter defender. His absence was noticeable late in Game 1, as Jeff Teague was able to impose his will in the 4th quarter on the way to a 102-101 win. With Bradley playing 33 minutes on Saturday, Kyle Korver shot just 1 of 10 from the floor: without him, life got a whole lot easier for Atlanta’s most dangerous three-point shooter.
On paper, this was a pretty evenly matched series at the outset; so losing one player should not be viewed as a death-blow for Boston. But it puts a lot more pressure on Isaiah Thomas and head coach Brad Stevens to find a way to keep the offense rolling, because Atlanta has shown they will always find a way to score on the Celtics. Game 1 marked the fourth straight game they’ve hit triple-digits against Boston.
Whether it’s Paul Millsap, Al Horford, or Kent Bazemore, the Hawks consistently find success on the interior against a Boston team that likes to go small. The trio combined for 61 points, 27 rebounds, and seven blocks in Game 1. For the Celtics to keep pace on offense, they’ll need to shoot better than a collective 36-percent from the floor.
But even after all of that, we haven’t even touched on the Hawks’ biggest advantage in this series: experience. Atlanta proved their playoff mettle last season with a run to the Conference Finals. Under Stevens, Boston is still yet to win a playoff game.
Atlanta has won four of five matchups between these two this season and five straight over Boston at home. The Celtics will adjust to the loss of Bradley and make this a series, but it won’t start tonight.
Pick: Atlanta (-6).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)
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