The Hawks handling the Heat with ease in the play-in game has set up the Celtics first round matchup.
The Hawks who went 41-41 this season struggled against the Celtics going 0-3 in the regular season series.
Albeit, there was a coaching change somewhere in there, when the Hawks fired Nate McMillan and hired former Jazz head coach Quin Snyder.
Since Quins takeover the Hawks went 11-11 and 0-2 against Boston.
Now of course the regular season series doesn’t matter all that much, but in a snapshot it does give us a general idea of how the two teams matchup.
When we break down the numbers, the Hawks resemble what a low seeded playoff team usually resembles, they’re really good on one side of the ball, and not so good on the other.
Led by point guard Trae Young, the Hawks are the third best offense in the league averaging 118.4 points per game.
The high powered offense comes from the backcourt duo of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray who average a combined 46 points and 16 assists per game, Trae having led the league in total assists this season.
While the Hawks offense is what has them in the playoffs, when comparing some of the offensive numbers we see that still, the Celtics match or exceed what the Hawks do.
So as the Hawks bread and butter is offense, it’s still an offense that the Celtics can outduel, and the Celtics bring it defensively too.
A simple offensive breakdown with the numbers consisting of points per game and shooting splits between the two plays out like this.
Hawks 118.4 48/35/82
Celtics 117.9 48/38/81
One significant change that has helped the Hawks offensively since Quin Snyder took over is crashing the offensive glass.
They average 11.2 offensive rebounds per game, ninth best in the league.
Clint Capela averages 11 rebounds a game, four of those come on the offensive end.
When Clint subs out there’s no rest either because backup center Onyeka Okongwu crashes the offensive glass just the same, averaging 7.2 rebounds and three offensively.
John Collins also pitches in 6.5 boards a game.
This could be an issue in stretches for the Celtics who are seventh in rebounding, but allowed the Hawks to grab an average of 14 offensive rebounds in the three games.
Something important to note is that Celtics second leading rebounder, Robert Williams who grabs 8.3 boards a game did not play any of those three games.
If the Celts do limit the offensive rebounding they should be able to get out in transition where they score 16 points per game.
When it comes to the defensive side, the Celtics have been significantly better than the Hawks throughout the season.
The Celtics rank fifth best in the league allowing 111 points per game whereas the Hawks rank 26th allowing 118 per game.
The Celtics are also second in defensive rating, the Hawks sit 22nd.
Defensively the goal for the Celtics should be to take Trae out of the game, if you can get the ball out of Traes hands it forces other guys to make plays for themselves.
The Hawks as a team average 25 assists a game, Trae pitches in 10 alone.
Next highest on the team is off season acquisition Dejounte Murray, who is a huge pick up for this team, he averages six a game.
With 16 of the 25 assists coming from the back court alone, that leaves nine for the rest of the team, and nobody left averages more than three assists a game.
The key to this is matchups.
To start, the Celtics have a three headed guard attack that consists of an all NBA defender, a Defensive Player of the Year, and another highly talented defender at the position.
This will be the matchup on the defensive side that makes or breaks this series.
If Marcus Smart, Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon can take Trae out of the game, or just continue to make him work extremely hard for everything he gets, the Celtics should handle this series easily.
If Trae does what he did just a few seasons ago when he carried the Hawks to an Eastern Conference Finals then the Celtics will have to work harder than they’d like in a first round, two vs seven series.
On the offensive side, the goal should again be to attack Trae.
Put Trae in actions to hunt mismatches and make him work extra hard on defense which in turn makes his offensive game harder to achieve.
The Hawks have a stellar wing defender in Deandre Hunter and a top tier on ball guard defender in Dejounte Murray.
These two are likely to draw the Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown assignments.
Hunter averages one stock for his career and Dejounte averaged 1.5 steals per game this season.
Again, just in a snapshot, during a couple regular season games, here’s how the Jays fared against the Hawks.
The Celtics have had success against the Hawks this season, and in a two vs seven series you hope it’s a stress free four to five game victory, but you never know in pro sports.
With that being said, if the Celtics can keep the bigs off the offensive glass, control tempo and limit the touches for Trae Young, while maintaining everything that made them successful throughout the 82 game regular season they should win this series with relative ease.
The Chase For Banner 18.
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