The Race For Sixth – How Boston and Atlanta Compare
The Boston Celtics, who trail the Hawks by 1.5 games in the standings, are at this point the only team Atlanta has a realistic chance of flipping spots with in the Eastern Conference standings, especially since the Celtics win the tiebreaker.
HOME: Brooklyn Nets (4/10)
A home game with a healthy Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett should be a win. There will be playoff energy at TD Garden.
AWAY: Miami Heat (4/12)
I have a feeling Erik Spoelstra will bring back LeBron James and Dwyane Wade for at least a few games to rev up for the playoffs. This might be one of them, but even without them, Miami is tough to beat at home.
AWAY: Orlando magic (4/13)
Even on the second night of a back-to-back, Boston should have no problem with a team looking to maximize its lottery chances.
HOME: Indiana Pacers (4/16)
The Pacers know this could be a first-round preview. They haven’t beat Boston this season, and they remember blowing a nine-point lead at home last month.
AWAY: Toronto Raptors (4/17)
Knowing they’d rather face Indiana than the New York Knicks, Boston will want this game. It may be a situation where they’re rooting for New York to avoid New York. The Hawks play the Knicks this same night.
Final record: 43-39
AWAY: Philadelphia 76ers (4/10)
The Hawks have had trouble with Philadelphia this season. The starters are hurting. Will Larry Drew sit guys again to get them healthy?
HOME: Milwaukee Bucks (4/12)
Atlanta is 3-0 against Milwaukee this season. The Bucks are pretty much locked into the eighth spot and are already preparing for Miami.
HOME: Toronto Raptors (4/16)
After an extended time off, the Hawks conclude the home portion of their schedule with another team they haven’t lost to this season. That will continue.
AWAY: New York Knicks (4/17)
If the results play out the way I’m predicting, the Hawks will have the six seed clinched before games get underway on the final night of the season. We’ll likely see very few minutes from the regulars.
Final record: 44-38
A lot can happen, but I think the Hawks have the inside track for the sixth seed, which would likely mean a first-round date with Indiana. If the Hawks win three of four, they’ll get the six for sure. Two of four makes it possible with some help from Boston’s opponents. Ironically, I think the Hawks match up better with New York because of the size, while Boston may match up better with Indiana because of the style of play.
It will also be interesting to see what the Celtics do down the stretch. Do they go for it, or do they concede the seven and rest everybody? We shall see.
Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images