Locked in at Five
The Hawks came out of the weekend locked in at the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, with a first round match-up set with the fourth seeded Boston Celtics. Despite the fact that Boston will have the better seed, the Hawks will earn home court advantage if they finish the regular season with a better record.
There are some in the media (and some in the Hawks’ fan base) that believe that Boston is a bad match-up for the Hawks. First off, this is the playoffs. You aren’t going to get an easy match-up anywhere. Those teams are already sitting at home watching on TV.
In terms of personnel, the Celtics are NOT a bad match up for Atlanta. Coach Drew recently talked about how Atlanta respects the Celtics, but they are definitely not intimidated by this first round match-up:
Many will point to the fact that the Celtics beat the Hawks twice this season when both teams were close to full strength. That is a true statement. (We are going to ignore the last game when Rondo, Garnett, Pierce and Allen all were inactive.)
What is also true is that the Hawks dictated play throughout a majority of both games. In fact, they led for over 25 minutes of the first game at Philips Arena, compared to the 14 minutes that Boston was in front. Then, in Boston, the Hawks led for over 33 minutes of regulation, compared to just nine for the Celtics (it was tied for 5 minutes). Take away a couple spurts of cold shooting that you would be hard pressed to blame on Boston’s defense, and the result of each game would have been different.
The Hawks have made it to the playoffs each of the past four years and their first rounds series are never easy. Starting with the seven-game thriller against Boston back in 2008, the Hawks have played 27-of-28 possible first round games, with last year’s six-game series with Orlando serving as the only one that didn’t go the distance.
The point is that the Playoffs are tough. They are supposed to be.
Boston is a tough opponent. Give them respect. Then give them toughness right back.