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Will the Boston Celtics Pay for Insulting the Atlanta Hawks?

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11: Head coach Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics signals during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 11, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 97-94.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterApril 23, 2012

First off, they probably won't. Though a Boston-Atlanta first-round series is roughly a statistical coin flip according to ESPN's John Hollinger, there are reasons to doubt the Hawks. Namely: 

  • They got blown out at home by Toronto.
  • They have trouble scoring against good teams.
  • Josh Smith is shooting more jumpers than ever.
  • They only beat a resting Boston by five. 
  • They just lost to New York at home, even though the Knicks were without Tyson Chandler. 

And at the same time, the Hawks are taken too lightly, perhaps by the Celtics. Boston eked out a tough April 18 win versus Orlando. They could have laid down, hoping to engineer at first-round matchup with an imploding Magic team.

Instead, the Celtics saved such an effort for a better Hawks squad, sitting Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on Friday. This choice may have given home-court advantage to Atlanta, worth roughly six points in the hypothetical Game 7 of a series (remember, the Celtics were once unlucky enough to go seven games against a far inferior Hawks squad). 

The tacit message is that Doc Rivers wants the Atlanta matchup and does not care if it's at home or on the road. Rest is fantastic to have, but is one game of recovery worth (probably) losing home-court advantage? 

It is very possible that a championship-winning coach knows something I don't, but I am a bit puzzled at the tactic. The Hawks are not much respected, but hear this: For all their underwhelming playoff reputation, the Smith-era Hawks have never ceded a series to an opponent with a worse record or point differential; Boston is on pace to fit that bill. The Hawks also upset Orlando last year in a mere six games. 

Do I trust the Hawks? Not quite, but I'd certainly fear them more than the Celtics do. 

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