It might not make much sense. And it might not even seem fair. But the Celtics will begin their playoff quest on the road in Atlanta on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN, CSNNE).
You can’t exactly say it’s an ideal situation for a Celtics team that at one point not too long ago had a real shot at being the No. 3 seed and hosting the Heat or Hornets.
Instead, it’s a proven Hawks team filled with veterans who have been there and done that, and have really turned things around since they were nearly blown up at the trade deadline.
But it’s not doom and gloom for the Celtics.
Sure, it was a bit deflating to see their efforts in a 26-point comeback Wednesday night not help them in the playoff standings, but it’s important to go into the playoffs on a high note rather than three straight losses to fellow playoff teams. And nobody inside that Celtics locker room is cowering at the thought of playing the Hawks, despite the fact they went 1-3 against them this season, including a recent 118-107 loss.
“I think its good for us, for our sake we get to play them again especially [after] our performance the last time,” Avery Bradley said. “We played them there in Atlanta. [It] gives us a chance to go back and play the way we did [Wednesday].”
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So what makes the Hawks such a dangerous team? Well, how much time do you have?
Their frontcourt of Paul Millsap and AL Horford is sneaky one of the best in the NBA. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the All-NBA Teams when they’re announced – there’s a good chance both will make one of those teams.
Millsap has caused the Celtics fits this season. In fact, you could easily make the case that he’s played better against the Celtics than any other opponent in the NBA. In four games, Millsap has averaged 22.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.3 steals, and shot 57.6-percent from the field.
Listed at 6-foot-8, 245 pounds, he’s a force down low and also a decent outside shooter who will stretch things out to the 3-point line.
And if it’s not Millsap, it’s Horford, who’s averaged 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in four games against the C’s.
Guards Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver have had down years, relatively speaking, but C’s head coach Brad Stevens has gone out of his way to praise both players on numerous occasions, and you can bet he and his players respect what they’re capable of doing.
“They’re like the Spurs,” Isaiah Thomas said. “Any given night is somebody’s night. They’re a team that’s very unselfish and it seems like they like playing with each other, so those are the tough teams to play, kind of like ourselves, and it’s gonna be a battle.”