The Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks play game 5 with the pivotal 3-2 series lead on the line (8.30pm ET, Tuesday).
It is another Eastern Conference first-round series and another game five with the two teams involved tied at two wins apiece, just like the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors. The difference is that the games in this series, contested between the fourth and fifth seeded teams, have been close.
Of the four prior games between these two teams, only one has been decided by double digit points. The first was won by the hometown Hawks, 102-101 and the most recent required an extra five minutes to go in favor of the Celtics. So far, the home team has won each game this series, something that bodes well for Atlanta, which will host two of the final three contests.
Atlanta came out on fire, scoring 30 first quarter points and outscoring Boston by 17 entering the first half. However, the Celtics, like they have been all season, roared back, outscoring the Hawks by 16 in the second half. At the end of the day it was just one point which marked the difference between the winners and losers in this game.
Scoring abounded all across the boxscores for both teams as in total, 10 players (five per team) scored 10 points or more. Leading all scorers was Boston’s Isaiah Thomas (pictured) with 27 points as well as eight assists. Kent Bazemore and Jeff Teague, the hero of the game, scored 23 apiece. Teague added a game high 12 assists. They were bested in scoring only by teammate Al Horford, who finished with a double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds to lead all players.
Once again in game two, in front of the hometown fans, Atlanta got off to a dominant start. The Hawks outscored Boston by 14 points in the first quarter and entered the first half break up 12. Boston, to its credit, was actually even with Atlanta save for this period but given the early lead, this wasn’t enough to get the Celtics the win.
Again it was 16 from Thomas that led the Celtics as Amir Johnson added another 14 and eight rebounds. Leading all scorers were Atlanta’s duo of Horford and Korver, who each had 17. Both teams yet again had a decent amount of production from a handful of players as each had four score in double figures.
Game three brought the series back to Boston and with it, the Celtics first win.
This time it was Boston to get the early lead and the quick start as the team shot nearly perfectly in the first quarter scoring a season high 37 points. Boston entered the first half up 12, just barely withstanding an Atlanta third quarter which saw the Hawks outscore the Celtics by 11. Another 30+ point quarter in the fourth however was enough to finish the Hawks for good.
In a line-up that saw Boston use two bench players as starters, Thomas became one of the leading scorers of the entire postseason, netting a career high 42 while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 13-of-15 from the line. He was joined by four teammates scoring at least 11 points. Jonas Jerebko, who scored just 11, had a double-double with 12 rebounds to help Boston outrebound Atlanta 44 to 41.
For Atlanta, only four players scored in double figures but each of them had at least 17. Leading the way was Teague who had 23 and was a perfect 9-of-9 from the free throw line.
Evident of the five extra minutes required to crown a winner, game four was actually closely contested from the opening tip making it the only game in which the winning team did not have a dominant first quarter lead. Boston led by only three after the opening period and actually went into the half down two. The Celtics were down three entering the fourth and final frame but then went on to outscore the Hawks 12-3 in overtime.
For the second game in a row, there was a 40-point plus scorer but this time it wasn’t Thomas. Thomas, who led the Celtics with 28 points finished second on the game to Atlanta’s Paul Millsap who scored a playoff high 45 as well as adding a game-high 13 rebounds. He certainly kept Atlanta in it, as did Korver and Teague, who continue to have at least 10 points in each game.
However at the end of the day it was Boston’s depth, which saw five scorers with at least 12, that won the day.
Moral of the story? These two teams can score and can score up and down the line-up. In fact it has been the scoring and the scoring proficiencies which have made the difference. Otherwise, the two teams are remarkably similar when it comes to rebounding as well as turnover margin.
Keys to the Game
Ultimately, there is really only one key to the game and that revolves around depth. As this series has shown there is absolutely no stopping Thomas and, to the same token, guys like Teague and Korver. So what it comes down to is which team can spread the ball around the most, which can get the most players involved.
Looking up and down the scoreboard, depth has been the key to this series and has perhaps been seconded only to homefield advantage. As I mentioned earlier in this game five preview, the home team has won each of their two so far.
Our Preview’s Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks Game 5 Betting Picks Prediction
For game five, we return to Atlanta, a place where the Hawks have been wholly successful. In both home games Atlanta has benefited from quick starts and a balanced offense. Against the Celtics, which have developed a tendency to fall behind early and then come back late, it is going to be paramount that Atlanta continues to play strong from the jump. Otherwise, Boston very well could steal one and then take the series back to the TD Bank Garden to win it all at home.
- My betting pick is at odds with the sportsbooks because I expect Boston to win, so bet on the Celtics +7pts on the spread @ -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.