Celtics vs. Hawks: Breaking Down the Matchups
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In a 2008 playoff rematch, the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks will square off in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The 2008 series stretched to seven games, but now each team is without a star player in Ray Allen for the Celtics and Al Horford for the Hawks.
Home court advantage was critical for the C's in 2008, but they opted for rest down the stretch instead of making a run at home court. Will coach Doc Rivers regret not going for home court?
Jeff Teague will not pose any threat to Rajon Rondo.
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Point Guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Jeff Teague
Since his statement 18-point, 17-rebound, 20-assist game against the Knicks on Mar. 4, Rajon Rondo has been the best passer in the league, averaging 13.4 assists. Rondo is the pulse of the team and when he is engaged, Boston is a tough team to beat. The addition of Avery Bradley to the starting lineup energized Rondo who finally had someone to run the fast-break with.
Teague is having a breakout season averaging 12.5 points per game, but doesn't fix the problems the Hawks have had ever since they passed on Chris Paul in the 2005 draft. They have the wing players to compete, but no passer to set the table. Teague isn't necessarily the problem for the Hawks, but he certainly isn't the answer either.
Avery Bradley has emerged as a two-way player.
Avery Bradley vs. Kirk Hinrich
Two players trending in opposite directions. Bradley, who started in place of the injured Ray Allen, displayed a refined shooting touch in the season's final 18 games scoring 15.3 points per game while shooting a blistering 54 percent on three-pointers. His pressure defense also helps Rondo take easier assignments and save energy for offense.
Hinrich, on the other hand, had the worst season of his career and capped it off with a 5.3 point per game April. Once known for his stellar defense and strong outside shooting, the 31 year old will have his hand full with Bradley.
Paul Pierce still has the upper hand on former teammate Joe Johnson.
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Paul Pierce vs. Joe Johnson
After a terrible start to the season, Pierce played his way into shape and the Celtics took off, winning 23 of their past 33 with Pierce averaging 21.7 per game. As the Knicks learned when he torched them for 43 on 19 shots, Pierce has transformed to an efficient scorer who rarely forces shots and knocks down open three-pointers.
Pierce's game was never dependent on athleticism so he has aged well similar to Dirk Nowitzki.
Johnson is a talented scorer, but not an elite scorer that can carry a team. Like Pierce, his best days are behind him, but his peak wasn't nearly as high. Johnson will get his own shot and set up his teammates, but his defense against Pierce will not hold up.
Josh Smith has the talent to take over a series.
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Josh Smith vs. Brandon Bass
In a rematch of 2011 playoffs when the Hawks played the Magic, Smith will once again handle the smaller Bass. Smith's size and athleticism are simply too much for Bass. When he smartly passes up on jump shots, Smith can wreak havoc on the boards and in the paint. In February, he lived up to his potential by averaging 23.9 points and 10.1 boards per game.
Replacing the unreliable Glen Davis, Bass provides the Celtics with excellent mid-range shooting, but not much else. When playing with Garnett, opposing defenses are spread out and the lane is open for Rondo to make plays.
Kevin Garnett has been rejuvenated by playing center.
Kevin Garnett vs. Jason Collins
With Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia injured at the start of the series, Collins gets the uneviable task of checking Garnett.
Garnett's move to center allowed him to take advantage of his speed and space the floor. His defense is still elite, while not what it once was. Garnett should be able to feast on his favorite 18-foot shots against the Hawks.
Smith might see time at center if the Hawks want to push the tempo.
Doc Rivers has the confidence of his veteran team.
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Doc Rivers vs. Larry Drew
Rivers' ability to reach the veterans on the team is nothing short of amazing. Rivers' experience gives the Celtics faith in his decision making.
Drew won a playoff series last season, but he hasn't been any more successful than his predecessor, Mike Woodson.
Kevin Garnett will dominate a depleted Atlanta frontcourt.
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With advantages across the board, the Celtics will have no trouble with the Hawks. The momentum of the second-half of the season will continue for the C's. Without Horford, the Hawks won't be able to exploit the Celtics biggest weakness: rebounding.
Despite not having home court, the Celtics, with or without Ray Allen are the superior team on both ends of the court. In order for the Hawks to have a chance, Smith and Johnson must play like All-NBA performers. While Smith is capable, Johnson no longer is that type of player.
The Celtics, with Bradley starting, are a premier defensive team which makes up for their low-scoring and rebounding.
Prediction: Celtics in 5.