The Hawks got a tough road win in Boston to closeout the Celtics on Thursday, while Friday gives us three big closeout games with a couple home teams having a chance to pull off some big upsets.
Hawks 104, Celtics 92
The Hawks closed out the Celtics with a dominant 104-92 win at Boston on Thursday night. This was their first playoff win in Boston since 1988 and while the score doesn’t indicate a blowout, the fact the Celtics outscored Atlanta 33-24 in the final quarter and still lost by 12 confirms it.
The Hawks took a 41-33 lead into the break and then went off for 39 points in the third quarter, opening up an 80-59 lead entering the fourth quarter. All five Hawks starters scored in double figures and while none of them went beast-mode, they all played pretty well. Paul Millsap led the way with 17 points, eight boards, a steal and four blocks, Kent Bazemore scored 15 with two 3-pointers, four boards, three dimes and two blocks, and Al Horford bounced back with 15 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals, three blocks and a 3-pointer on 7-of-10 shooting. Horford came in cold, but had an outstanding game last night. Jeff Teague departed early with a mild ankle injury and was in some foul trouble, finishing with 11 points and five assists, and Kyle Korver had 14 points, two 3-pointers, nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and two blocks, and also made all four of his shots and was 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Dennis Schroder came off the bench and had 12 points, eight assists and a 3-pointer and shot it much better, hitting 5-of-10 shots in 23 minutes. Mike Scott played 17 minutes, but finished with just seven points, three rebounds and a 3-pointer in 20 minutes. With Horford playing so well, Scott’s services weren’t needed as much as they were in Game 5. After closing out the Celtics in six games the Hawks are poised to face the No. 1 seed Cavaliers in a series that starts on Monday night in Cleveland.
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The Celtics got 25 points, 10 assists, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas, but he hit just 9-of-24 shots and was bottled up by the solid Hawks’ defense until the fourth quarter. Jae Crowder added 15 points, six rebounds and three 3-pointers, and Jonas Jerebko stayed hot with 13 points, two blocks and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes. Evan Turner was a bit disappointing with just eight points on 4-of-17 shooting, but also had seven rebounds and four assists in the loss. Amir Johnson’s struggles continued with the return of Kelly Olynyk and had had just three points and four boards in 18 minutes. I hope you didn’t use him in DFS. Marcus Smart was the big winner off the C’s bench with 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals, but hit just 4-of-11 shots in the loss. The Celtics are going fishing, but I think we can all agree that Brad Stevens can coach, and that this team is primed to become very good over the next few years.
Toronto @ Indiana – Raptors lead 3-2
Miami @ Charlotte – Hornets lead 3-2
Clippers @ Portland – Blazers lead 3-2
As you can see, we’ve got three potential closeout games tonight featuring the home team and underdog in two of them. The Pacers have the tough task of staying alive in Toronto, while the Hornets and Blazers appear to be poised to close out the Heat and injury-depleted Clippers.
My predictions are wins by the home teams tonight - Pacers, Hornets and Blazers - and if that happens, the second round would look like this:
Cleveland vs. Atlanta – Cavs hold home-court advantage
Charlotte-Miami winner vs. Pacers-Raptors winner – CHA would have home-court vs. IND
Golden State vs. winner of Blazers-Clippers series – Warriors will have home-court
San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City – Spurs hold home court advantage
News & Notes
Paul George may play all 48 minutes against the Raptors tonight. The Pacers fell apart with him on the bench early in the fourth quarter of Game 5, so the Pacers won’t make that mistake again.
Nicolas Batum will come off the bench again for the Hornets on Friday.
Hassan Whiteside says he’s playing through his hand injury for the Heat tonight.
Stephen Curry plans on testing his knee on the court next week, so it’s possible he could play at some point against the Blazers or Clippers. My guess is he’ll sit this series out, but there’s a chance he’ll be available to play sooner than later. Shaun Livingston says that he’s going to be more aggressive offensively for however long Curry is sidelined.
Blake Griffin, who is out for the remainder of the postseason, won’t need surgery on his quad injury. Chris Paul is out indefinitely with his broken hand, and I don’t think we’ll see him again until next season. With those two out, Austin Rivers and Jeff Green become the fantasy plays.
J.R. Smith practiced through a groin injury on Thursday and hopes to be ready for Monday’s series opener against the Hawks. Tristan Thompson burned the Hawks in the Eastern Finals last season, but with Kevin Love around and playing so well, Thompson is still a bit of a long shot for big fantasy success in Round 2.
Dwight Howard is reportedly considering a return to the Magic next season, but I simply can’t imagine the Magic going back for another headache with Howard. All we really know at this point is that there’s almost no way he ends up back in Houston.