Over the next few days, Basket Bawful and Free Darko will be previewing each NBA Playoff series. Basket Bawful looks at the Eastern Conference today, starting with the series between the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks, which begins Sunday.
Writing a preview for this matchup is nearly impossible, because it sort of presumes that the Hawks have a good enough chance to justify expending the necessary mental energy. And they don't. But of course nothing short of a sturdy wooden chair and several rolls of duct tape will keep me from talking about it.
The season series: Boston won it in a 3-0 sweep.
Bad news for the Hawks: The dirty birds lost all three games by double digits.
Good news for the Hawks: After losing the first game by 23 points, they lost the last two by only 10 points each. That's progress. Sort of.
Reality check: In the teams' last meeting on April 12, it was Atlanta's starters versus Boston's reserves during the fourth quarter. Note that Atlanta desperately needed a win to clinch their first playoff berth in almost a decade. And they still lost by 10. As bad signs go, that ranks somewhere between waking up next to a bloody horse's head and finding out that Soylent green is people.
Celtics player(s) to watch: Kevin Garnett put the Hawks in his hip pocket this season. In the first game, KG had 27 points, 19 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 blocked shots. In the second game, he scored 20 points, snatched 16 boards and stole the ball twice. In the third and final game, Garnett had went off for 24, 6, and 4 despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter. So I think it's safe to say Atlanta doesn't have an answer for KG, unless it involves a Celtic Pride-style kidnapping.
Hawks player(s) to keep an eye on: He averaged only 15 PPG on 31 percent shooting against the Celtics, but Joe Johnson is Atlanta's captain and best player. He's going to go down, but he'll go down shooting. Also, Mike Bibby has a lot more playoff experience than Rajon Rondo, who has none. Of course, my grandpa has a lot more life experience than I do, but I'm pretty sure I could beat him in a game of one-on-one.
Key(s) to the series: Boston's best-in-the-league defense. It should smother the Hawks like a plastic grocery bag on a baby's head. (Warning: Do not put a plastic bag on your baby's head; it may cause skin irritation.) The Celtics could probably score 95 PPG and win this series. Actually, make that 90 PPG, since Atlanta never scored more than 89 points against Boston this season.
Prediction: Unless something unthinkable (like a KG's right leg falls off) or bizarre (like both of KG's legs fall off) happens, the Celtics are going to win this one 4-0, where the first two games will be blowouts, the third game will be close all the way, and the fourth game will be close until the Celtics pull away in the fourth quarter.