Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
#4 Boston Celtics (39-27): 92.3 possessions per game, 98.9 points per 100 possessions, 95.5 points allowed per 100 possessions
#5 Atlanta Hawks (40-26): 92.4 possessions per game, 102.4 points per 100 possessions, 98.6 points allowed per 100 possessions
Team Match-up To Watch For: Josh Smith vs Kevin Garnett
This is a team match-up because Smith and Garnett are the captains of their defensive units and will be at the center of everything for both of these teams on that end of the floor. The Hawks have a decent offense while the Celtics have a below average offense. Both teams are going to rely a ton on spot-up jumpshots but I think this series will be won by the team that best contains their opposition’s pick and roll production. While Smith is a great help defender, he can be taken advantage of in the pick and roll – he allowed 46.2% shooting to the ball handler on pick and rolls this year. Garnett, on the other hand, is still the best pick and roll defender in the league for my money , and the numbers back that up: he has held pick and roll ball handlers to 30.2% shooting this season and the big men to 34.3% shooting. If the Celtics can exploit Smith enough, the Hawks defense will break down and Boston’s spot-up shooters will begin to feast. On the other end, if KG plays like himself, the Hawks will struggle to score directly or indirectly off the pick and roll.
Individual Match-up To Watch For: Avery Bradley on Joe Johnson
As I touched on earlier this month, Bradley has emerged as an elite perimeter defender. He’ll have his hands full with the bigger, stronger Joe Johnson, but all signs point to the young point guard having that assignment. Even with Bradley’s unique defensive talents, Johnson should have a distinct advantage. Of players with 200 isolation possessions this year, Johnson produced the fourth most points per possession, out producing guys like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony. Johnson is also the best post-up guard in basketball, shooting 54.1% from the post this season. With a three or four inch height advantage, expect Johnson to get his. Whether or not isolation scoring can exclusively beat this defensive is the question. If Bradley struggles, Doc will surely have a back-up plan to pull out of his magic hat of defensive brilliance.
Prediction: This should be a really good series. I think Boston has enough for one last run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Celtics in seven.