With the first Play-In Tournament games officially in the books, more matchups in the 2023 NBA Playoffs are taking shape. The top seeds are now finding out who they will be facing in the first round. With the Atlanta Hawks set to face the Boston Celtics, it means it is time for some Hawks NBA Playoffs bold predictions.
Atlanta went 41-41 in the regular season, two fewer wins compared to last season, to secure the No. 8 seed in the standings. This marked the second year in a row that the Hawks were in the Play-In Tournament.
On Tuesday, the team managed to upset the Miami Heat 116-105 on the road to officially clinch a spot in the postseason.
On the other side of the matchup, the Celtics went 57-25 and finished at No. 2 in the Eastern Conference. They also had the second-best record in the league, only trailing the Milwaukee Bucks at 58-24.
In the regular season, Boston swept the series 3-0. It is worth noting that in the third game, both teams preserved their main players ahead of the postseason.
With that being said, here are some bold predictions for the Hawks as they kick off their 2023 NBA Playoffs first-round series versus the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
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3. Dejounte Murray and Clint Capela give Jayson Tatum some challenges
If there is one player that should give the Hawks some headaches in this series, it is Jayson Tatum. The forward is coming off a career year and is in the MVP conversation after his fourth consecutive All-Star selection.
In the regular season, Tatum averaged a career-high 30.1 points, 8.8 boards and 4.6 assists per game. He shot 46.6% from the field, 35% from beyond the arc, and 85.4% from the free-throw line.
Some of Tatum’s highlights include being the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for October and November. He also surpassed Larry Bird for the most 50-point regular season games in franchise history and became the 10th player in league history to reach 9,000 career points before turning 25.
With such an impressive season, Atlanta will need all it can get from its defenders, especially Dejounte Murray. The team’s main acquisition for the 2022-23 season, the guard averaged 1.5 steals and has an All-Defensive Team selection in his résumé.
Closer to the basket, Clint Capela could protect the paint from Tatum’s infiltrations. The big man recorded 1.2 blocks and 11 rebounds per game. Most notably, he had 21 boards against the Heat in the Play-In Tournament.
The bold prediction is that Murray and Capela will provide Tatum with some challenges throughout the series. While the Boston star should still put up big numbers, the Hawks will still be able to limit his efficiency a bit.
2. Trae Young averages 25-10 for the series
On the offensive end, the Hawks will need Trae Young to step up for them. While the point guard did not have a great season by his standards, he still put up some numbers that the Celtics should keep an eye on.
Young averaged 26.2 points, a career-high 10.2 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game. He made 42.9% of his field goals and 33.5% of his 3-pointers, both of which were his worst marks since his rookie campaign.
In the two times he faced Boston this season, Young put up 31.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting 44-33-92.
The problem is that Young seriously struggled in last year’s playoffs. He scored only 15.4 points on 32-18-79 shooting splits as the Hawks were eliminated in the first round.
However, the bold prediction is that Young will bounce back from his last trip to the postseason. Expect him to average a double-double with at least 25 points and 10 assists. Should that happen, Atlanta could keep the series closer than expected.
1. Atlanta has its moments but falls to Boston in at most six games
At the end of the day, it is difficult to ignore how well Tatum and the Celtics have been playing this season. They were just one win away from sharing the best record in the league and have a top-10 offense and defense.
As for the Hawks, they finished the regular season in the bottom five in points allowed with 118.1. Also, they only went 17-24 on the road. With the first two games happening at the TD Garden, it could be very complicated to reverse a 2-0 deficit.
According to FanDuel, the Celtics are the heavy favorites to win this series. The odds are currently -1000, the largest among all playoff series that already have both teams determined.
The bold prediction is that the Hawks will have their moments, which can include a big win at home. However, the Celtics will eventually close the series in at most six games and advance to the conference semifinals.
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