Kinds make fights: Celtics championship-caliber protection will probably be examined by Hawks
A staff can get fortunate in a single sport. Hit a variety of contested pictures or catch a staff on the again finish of a back-to-back and/or nursing accidents and you may run away with a win. Nevertheless, a seven-game sequence within the NBA Playoffs is a prize battle. You would possibly win a spherical right here and there, however normally, it’s the totality of all of the punches that may finally decide the winner.
Atlanta’s 11-11 report beneath Quin Snyder doesn’t precisely exude a ton of confidence heading into the postseason and even beating Miami in Miami within the play-in match would possibly say extra in regards to the Warmth than it does in regards to the Hawks. Nevertheless, you can begin to see Snyder’s affect on the offense. Contemplate this: by the point Snyder had transitioned Utah from Gordon Hayward to Donovan Mitchell, he remodeled a middling Jazz offense into essentially the most environment friendly within the league final season and he’s already made enhancements together with his new staff regardless of beginning so late within the yr.
Within the ultimate fifteen video games of the common season, the Snyder-cut Hawks averaged essentially the most factors within the league at 124.1 an evening. Positive, they performed with tempo to generate extra possessions, but it surely’s not as in the event that they had been chucking up a bunch of three-pointers and getting out in transition. As an alternative, Atlanta excelled within the soiled work, the soiled work of preventing for offensive rebounds and the “soiled” work of attending to the free throw line. Towards the Warmth on Tuesday evening, they grabbed 22 offensive rebounds to Miami’s 6 and went to the free throw line 27 occasions vs. the house staff’s 20.
As spectacular as Atlanta was on offense to shut out the common season, Boston matched them on the opposite facet of the ball. Even whereas treating the ultimate three video games as a little bit of a settle down from an 82-game marathon, the Celtics completed first in defensive ranking at 109.1 factors per 100 possessions; to place that into context, the Hawks had been twenty fifth at 118.5. It wasn’t precisely the stingy D that they closed with in 2022, but when protection wins championships, they’re clearly trending in the best course.
Pun supposed, a lot of the Hawks’ level era comes from their one-two punch of Trae Younger and Dejounte Murray. To wit, they common simply over 16 of Atlanta’s 25 assists per sport. No one else averages greater than three; the Celtics have 4 gamers not named Jay doling out between 3 and 6.3 an evening. They’re the engines.
The Hawks usually are not precisely a “cross up a very good shot for an ideal shot” staff. They averaged the sixth highest tempo within the NBA and the fewest passes per sport. That just about appears not possible to do.
Atlanta in a nutshell. They’ll use Younger because the catalyst coming off a decide or attacking in semi-transition. If he or Murray get into the lane, they’ll shoot both a mid-range or floater. They’re third within the league in mid-range pictures (14.7 per sport). If the protection collapses and so they can generate an open three-point shot, they hit simply 34.7% of their catch-and-shoot threes (twenty seventh within the league) which places a premium on the offensive rebounding of Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu.
To win 4 video games, the Celtics will counter punch with arguably the most effective defensive three-guard lineup within the league with Malcolm Brogdon, the defending Defensive Participant of the 12 months Marcus Good, and Defensive Participant of the 12 months candidate Derrick White. Regardless that Boston’s system relies on switching, count on to see them play in drop protection and go over screens in opposition to Younger and beneath with Murray and maintain their defensive form.
Exterior of Younger and Murray, Snyder doesn’t have rather a lot in the way in which of on-the-ball creators. They don’t run a variety of actions off the ball as a result of they don’t have a variety of motion shooters moreover Bogdan Bogdanovich. If the Celtics can keep principally at dwelling and keep away from giving open runways to excessive flyers like John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, and Jalen Johnson, they’ll neutralize their athleticism and switch them into shooters (which they’re not nice at) and weak facet isolation threats (additionally, not nice at).
One of many massive query marks heading into Spherical 1 is who will spherical out the rotation for the Celtics. Presumably, they’ll begin their core 4 plus both Derrick White or Robert Williams — it’s most probably going to be White — after which Sixth Man of the 12 months candidate Malcolm Brogdon will come off the bench. That’s their top-7.
If Mazzulla leans right into a extra defensive id, the eighth man will probably be Grant Williams. With how a lot the Hawks pound the offensive glass, it is perhaps smart to make the most of considered one of Boston’s most versatile defenders. With how a lot Atlanta goes to need to get the ball up and down the courtroom, a 3rd massive may very well be so as. We’d even be graced with a Blake Griffin cameo who was considered one of three Celtics (together with White and Hauser) to play in all three video games vs. Atlanta.
However with how properly Sam Hauser shot the ball in opposition to Atlanta, it’s going to be arduous to maintain him off the ground. In three video games in opposition to the Hawks, he shot a blistering 17-of-25 from behind the arc and averaged almost 18 factors a sport. A part of that’s unusual coincidence. A part of that’s the Hawks’ poor protection. Nevertheless, if the video games begin to flip into shootouts — the Celtics averaged 127 factors in opposition to them within the common season — Hauser’s your Huckleberry.
There’s the apparent downside although. It’s nearly comical how a lot Murray and Younger focused Hauser on protection. Within the nineteen possessions that they stared him down with the ball of their palms, they scored nineteen factors on 6-of-9 taking pictures and dished out two assists. Simply because the Celtics will decide on Younger on their offensive facet of the ground, you may wager that Hauser will get his justifiable share of ISO’s, too.
On Saturday afternoon, Boston open as 9-point favorites for Sport 1 at TD Backyard. That’s the most important opening line for any first-round sequence with Bulls-Warmth and Thunder-Timberwolves undecided to this point. The Celtics are a -1000 to win the sequence.
Our buddies at DraftKings even have the Hawks-Celtics over/beneath because the second highest whole for any of the opening video games. Out west, they’ve pegged Warriors-Kings at 238.5. Within the common season, Boston and Atlanta mixed for 227, 259, and 234 factors. Sport 1’s over/beneath checks in at 230.5.
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