The Hawks will return to their home arena down 2-0 in the series and in danger of falling into a likely unsurmountable deficit tonight with a loss. Boston has won the first two games by double figures, and we’ll be previewing tonight’s matchup before going over why I’ll be targeting a first-half play in this one.
Atlanta has had a rough go at it since the start of this series, as their (-11.1) NET rating is 14th out of 16 playoff teams, and their offensive efficiency rating of 100.5 is the worst among playoff teams. For a team that was third in the league in points per game during the regular season, only scoring 99 and 106 points through the first two games makes their offensive struggles clear as day.
A big part of this can be related to Atlanta’s struggles from three and Boston’s ability to defend the perimeter at a high level. Boston was fourth in opponent three-point percentage during the regular season, and through two games, Atlanta has not shot better than 33% from deep.
Atlanta attempted 19 more threes in game two but still had the same offensive outcome as game one. The Celtics' defensive game plan should get a bulk of the credit here as they have forced Trae Young to go 3 for 13 from deep in the first two games, and in turn, they have had complete control of both games.
Offensively the Celtics are 8th out of the 16 playoff teams in offensive efficiency rating, but they have the third-best effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. In game two, Boston found success from both beyond the arc and in the paint by shooting 45% from three and scoring 64 of their points in the paint.
Atlanta’s struggles to defend on the interior have been extensively exposed up to this point, as they were 29th in opponent points in the paint per game during the regular season, and through two games, they are last among playoff teams in that area.
The Celtics' first-half spread is currently listed at (-1.5) tonight, and I’ll be taking that as my play in this one. The past two night’s I have hit on a 1H spread bet in favor of the home team coming out motivated and aggressive, but I think tonight is going to be the opposite.
This Atlanta team does not have the mentality of a Milwaukee or Golden State, and much like Brooklyn last night, the Hawks are outmatched in the series, so even if they come out aggressive, I think Boston will still go into halftime with a lead. In the first two games, Boston went into halftime with leads of 30 and 12, giving them the best 1H NET rating out of any playoff team so far at (38.4).
During the regular season, the Celtics also held the best 1H NET rating, while Atlanta was 15th in that category. Atlanta also had a better shooting percentage in the first half when playing on the road during the regular season, so there was no spike in that area when at home. At the end of the day, Boston’s game plan for this series is too strong to bet against.
Boston Celtics 1H (-1.5)