The first round of the NBA playoffs tips off tomorrow, and one of the games will feature the Atlanta Hawks out of the Play-In Tournament, heading to Boston to take on the two-seed Celtics. We’ll preview the matchup before going over why I’ll be targeting a first-half bet.
The Atlanta Hawks were the epitome of inconsistency during the regular season, but for at least one game, they were able to put that aside and leave Miami with a win. Even with Trae Young getting into a shouting match with his assistant coach, the Hawks controlled the game from start to finish and displayed why their offense was in the top ten in offensive efficiency during the regular season.
Atlanta dominated the paint against the Heat on Tuesday night, as they scored 64 of their 116 points in the paint while outrebounding Miami 63 to 39. Clint Capela pulled down 21 rebounds as he was one of the eight players for Atlanta that hauled in four or more boards.
Both interior scoring and rebounding will likely not come as easy in this series for Atlanta since the Celtics had the 9th-best rebounding percentage in the league during the regular season. The Celtics also ranked 9th in points in the paint allowed per game and had the 2nd-best defensive efficiency rating, so Atlanta will need to shoot better than 24% from three as they did on Tuesday in order to have a balanced attack.
The Celtics won all three matchups between these two teams, with the most recent being on the last day of the season with primarily bench players in the lineup for both sides. In the two other matchups with both teams' normal lineups playing, the Celtics scored at will against the Atlanta defense. On March 11th, Boston scored 134 points on the Hawks while shooting 55% from the field while knocking down 20 threes.
Boston is currently listed at (-5) for the first-half spread, and I’ll be taking them as my play in this one. Boston was the 7th most profitable 1H team during the regular season with a 45-37 1H ATS record. The Celtics had at least a five-point lead in the two games where both teams played their starters, which is unsurprising since Atlanta had an ROI of -13.54% on first-half spread bets this season.
Atlanta has struggled to limit ball movement this season, as they ranked 20th in assists allowed per game in the first half. At the same time, Boston was 6th in 1H assist ratio, so the offensive success that the Celtics have found against Atlanta will likely continue. The Celtics also got 41.8% of their first-half scoring from three-pointers, and the Hawks were 16th in 1H three-point percentage allowed, so between the ball movement leading to open three-point looks, I don’t see a scenario where the Celtics come out slow.
Defensively, Boston was 4th in opponent first-half field goal percentage and 12th in field goals allowed per game in the first half. I don’t expect Atlanta to find the same amount of interior scoring success tomorrow, and with the way they shot it from three on Tuesday, I think Boston will walk into halftime with a nice lead.
Boston Celtics 1H (-5)