2023 NBA Playoffs First Round Series Preview: Boston Celtics vs Atlanta Hawks

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

2023 NBA Playoffs First Round Series Preview: Boston Celtics vs Atlanta Hawks


2023 NBA Playoffs First Round Series Preview: Boston Celtics vs Atlanta Hawks


The Atlanta Hawks upset road win in the first play-in game means they’ll travel to Boston to take on the reigning Eastern Conference champion Celtics. Boston comes into this series heavily favored but should they be? With a win that saw the Hawks break out offensively against a good Miami defense, Atlanta may be going into this series a tad underrated. Let’s compare both sides in several key categories to see who will come out on top in the Celtics and Hawks first round series. 

 Star power- Celtics 

While Trae Young is a more than worthy adversary as a perennial All-Star, the Celtics two headed scoring monster of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is more than enough to take the cake here. Sure, the Hawks have had Dejounte Murray this year to give Young a second star but that experiment has only led to middle of the road results this season. Tatum and Brown have been far too consistent the last few playoff runs to bet against them here. 

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Role players- Celtics 

Looking at each side’s supporting cast, Boston has numerous high impact players who bring it on both ends. From the steady defensive backcourt of Marcus Smart and Derrick White to Robert Williams inside and Al Horford’s postseason pedigree, Boston has a loaded rotation. Atlanta isn’t too shabby themselves but Deandre Hunter, John Collins, and Saddiq Bey don’t move the needle to compete with what the Celtics have. 

Offense- Celtics 

At the midway point of the regular season, the Celtics offense was churning through opposing defenses like a hot knife through butter. They were posting just north of a 120 ORTG until the post All-Star break schedule hit. The Celtics took a dip but are still a top three offense in basketball. A well spaced shoot it, drive it or pass it system of offense has done wonders for the once stagnant C’s. Meanwhile Atlanta finished the year seventh on this end with a 116.9 ORTG. On their best day, the Hawks can go toe to toe with the Celtics on offense. Boston is simply more consistent on a nightly basis which is why they get the edge. 

Rebounding- Hawks 

Aside from total rebounds per game to which the Celtics have a one rebound advantage over the Hawks, Atlanta is superior in the overall rebounding category. The Hawks have the Celtics beat in terms of contested rebounds, offensive rebounds and offensive rebounding percentage. The Hawks even rank top three in both previously mentioned offensive board stats. Clint Capela leads the charge on the glass hauling in 11 per game which ranks seventh in the entire NBA.  

Shooting- Celtics 

No offense in the NBA could perform at a high level without strong shooting from outside. That trend is true for the Celtics as their third ranked offense is simultaneously the sixth best three point shooting team in the NBA. The Celtics connect from downtown at a 37.7% clip. Meanwhile the Hawks only hit 35% of their threes, which ranks 23rd in basketball. Boston is also second in basketball in points off catch and shoot jumpers so this category easily goes to the Celtics.  

Interior defense- Hawks 

In all honesty, this category comes down to who would you rather have as a rim protector, Clint Capela or Robert Williams. If you asked me last year I would have said the Timelord in a heartbeat but it’s a different story in the here and now. Capela has seen a bit of a resurgence as a shot blocker. While he only averaged 1.2 blocks per game, slightly less than Williams’ 1.4, Capela affects a lot of shots around the rim without getting the block. Onyeka Okongwu is also a shot blocking threat which gives the Hawks the advantage in the interior. 

Perimeter defense- Celtics

Even though the Celtics are a tad behind the Hawks in paint protection, they more than make up for it with their litany of dynamite perimeter defenders. Marcus Smart has won a DPOY. Derrick White is an All-Defense impact player. Additionally, Tatum, Brown, Horford, and Grant Williams are all versatile pieces of a switch-happy Celtics defense that is still among the league’s best heading into the postseason. 

Coaching Celtics 

Quin Snyder has made his footprint felt in the short time he’s been the Hawks head coach. Synder has implemented more pace and more creative offensive sets for not only their primary ball handlers but guys like Hunter and Collins have seen growth with more open looks as well. However, Joe Mazzulla is a rightful top five Coach of the Year candidate. The Cetlics have turned into an offensive machine behind the guiding principles of Mazzulla ball. 

Team chemistry- Celtics 

There are still quite a few pieces of the Hawks roster from their 2021 ECF run. However, the Celtics are coming off a NBA Finals run and have seen multiple deep playoff runs with this core. Boston has worked out its differences from the past and are thriving from those experiences which is the sign of a mature team that’s ready to run it back to the Finals. 

Total score: Celtics 7 | Hawks 2 

Series Prediction: Celtics over Hawks in five games 




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