After months of basketball, the 2023 NBA Playoffs are finally here. Now, only the best of the best remain in pursuit of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. With the Boston Celtics opening their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, it is time for some Celtics Game 1 bold predictions.
The Celtics went 57-25 in the regular season, finishing second in the Eastern Conference. It represented a six-win improvement compared to the previous year. They also had the second-best record in the league, only trailing the Milwaukee Bucks at 58-24.
On the other side of the matchup, the Hawks finished 41-41 and made it to the Play-In Tournament as the No. 8 seed. On Tuesday, the team managed to upset the Miami Heat 116-105 on the road to officially clinch a spot in the playoffs.
In the regular season, Boston swept the series 3-0. It is worth noting that in the third game, both teams preserved their main players ahead of the postseason. Despite the Celtics’ dominance in the regular season, the playoffs should be a different animal.
With that being said, here are three bold predictions for the Boston Celtics against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first round.
*Watch NBA games LIVE with fuboTV (click for a free trial)*
3. Boston limits Trae Young to below 25 points and 5 or more turnovers
If there is one player that Boston should pay extra attention to, it is Trae Young. While the point guard did not have a season as great as his previous ones, he still put up some big numbers.
Young averaged 26.2 points, a career-high 10.2 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game. He made 42.9% of his field goals and 33.5% of his 3-pointers, both of which were his worst marks since his rookie campaign.
In the two times he faced Boston this season, Young put up 31.0 points, 11.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 44-33-92.
Because of what Young is capable of, the Celtics might need to have a special plan to guard him. Both Marcus Smart and Derrick White should give him a hard time on the perimeter. If he goes past them, Robert Williams III could challenge his shots. This way, Boston might force him to take bad shots or pass the ball.
The bold prediction is that the Celtics will hold Young to at most 25 points. Not only that, but they will also force at least five turnovers coming from him thanks to the team’s defensive-minded players.
2. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combine for at least 60 points
As for the Celtics, they have a duo that can set them apart from the competition. Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown had career years and should play key roles in this first-round series.
In the regular season, Tatum averaged a career-high 30.1 points, 8.8 boards and 4.6 assists per game. He shot 46.6% from the field, 35% from beyond the arc and 85.4% from the free-throw line. He ended up earning his fourth consecutive All-Star selection and is in the MVP conversation.
Brown averaged a career-best 26.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists. His shooting splits were 49.1% from the field, 33.5% from 3-point land and 76.5% from the charity stripe. The former Cal star received his second All-Star nod and could make an All-NBA team for the first time in his seven-year career.
Even if the Hawks are able to contain one of them, the other could likely turn things around. The bold prediction is that Tatum and Brown will combine for at least 60 points on Saturday. Should that happen, the Celtics will be in a good position to open the series 1-0.
1. Hawks have their moments, but Celtics take Game 1
At the end of the day, it is difficult to ignore what the Celtics accomplished in the regular season. They had two All-NBA-caliber players and were one of the best teams in the league. On the other hand, the Hawks finished with a worse record than in the previous season with Young’s efficiency going down.
Although that is the case, Boston and Atlanta could still put up an interesting series. Both organizations bring youth but have deep playoff experience, including a Finals appearance for the Celtics in 2022 and a Conference Finals run for the Hawks in 2021.
The Celtics are the favorites to win this opening contest, according to FanDuel. Currently, the spread is -9, which is the largest among Game 1 encounters that already have both teams determined.
One thing that could make a difference for Boston in Game 1 is TD Garden. The Celtics went 32-9 at home in the regular season while the Hawks had a 17-24 record on the road.
All things considered, the bold prediction is the Hawks will have their moments in the game. However, the Celtics will eventually take Game 1 and open the series with an important victory. If that happens, Boston should be able to keep its home-court advantage alive in the first round.
The post 3 bold Celtics predictions for Game 1 vs. Hawks appeared first on ClutchPoints.