Celtics vs. Hawks Odds
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
The first-place Boston Celtics travel south Wednesday to face the third-place Atlanta Hawks in a battle of the top of the Eastern Conference.
The two teams split their four meetings last year and the home team won and covered every time.
Will the home cover streak stay alive tonight? Let’s break it down.
Celtics Efficient Offensively
The Celtics have gotten off to an impressive start this season thanks to the outstanding play of MVP candidate Jayson Tatum.
Tatum is third in points per game (PPG) at 31.9, despite a plethora of top-end scoring this season, (eight players currently average 30+ PPG). He also ranks a surprising 10th in 3-pointers made per game (3.5) and seventh in PER (28.34).
I doubt anyone thought at the beginning of the season that Boston’s offense would be the component propelling them to the top of the Eastern Conference, especially at the expense of a lackluster defense that was historic in its stinginess at the end of last season. But here we are.
The absence of Robert Williams III is a main reason for their below-average start defensively, but it likely has to do with the time of year, too. I think the Celtics will pick things up in 2023 when Williams returns and the regular season starts to have more playoff implications.
Until then, it’s bombs away on the offensive end. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Celtics take a higher percentage of shots from three than any other team in the league at 43.5%.
On top of that, they’re making them at an impressive clip (38.3%) good enough for fifth in the league.
Every aspect of their offense is elite so far this season.
Cleaning the Glass takes into account a team’s percentage from every single spot on the court: Rim, Short Mid, Long Mid, All Mid, Corner Three, Non Corner, and All Three. The Celtics rank in the top 10 in the league in shot percentage from every spot on the floor.
Defensively, they’re better than their numbers would suggest. They’re giving up a lot of mid-range (the least-efficient shot), but preventing their opponent from taking threes and layups, ranking seventh in opponent attempts from beyond the arc (32.4%) and second in opponent rim attempts (29%).
Their defense should be due for some positive regression as the midrange is mainly where they’re having trouble, allowing 38.6% of their opponents shot from the midrange.
As a result, Celtics opponents are making scoring with the fifth-highest efficiency at 44.8%. But as previously mentioned, that’s the least efficient shot in the game. The Celtics will give teams that shot all day, even if they’re making them.
Hawks Can Exploit Boston’s Strategy
And the Hawks just happen to be making them.
Offensively, the Hawks take the most midrange shots of any other team in the league, and they make them at a 42.5% clip, good enough for 13th in the league.
It’s part of the Celtics’ scheme to allow their opponents lower-efficiency midrange shots while protecting the 3-point line at all costs.
And it’s an excellent strategy in today’s NBA, but the Hawks just happen to be a team capable of exploiting that strategy with their above-average offense scheme that is surprisingly tailored to the mid-range.
I think this gives Atlanta more of an offensive edge compared to the NBA’s more 3-point-heavy teams.
However, the real edge tonight lies with the Hawks’ defense.
The acquisition of defensive-minded point guard Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs was a move few people thought would cause problems on defense. The question was always whether two ball-dominant players like Murray and Trae Young could share the ball on offense.
So far, it hasn’t been an issue, with both players sharing the backcourt gracefully. Even Young’s and Murray’s stats have been relatively the same. The only meaningful difference has been Murray’s playmaking (his assists are down from 9.2 last season to 7.8 this season) and Young’s shooting efficiency—his splits of 46/38/90 last season are down to 38/31/91 this season.
Murray is able to make up for Young’s defensive deficiencies, and with such an impressive defender in the mix, the Hawks can hide Young’s liability on that end of the floor more easily.
Last season, the Hawks ranked 26th in Opponent Points Per Possession (114.8) compared to fifth so far this season (110.5).
Opponent Effective Field Goal Percentage has also drastically improved rising to second in the league at 51.2% compared to 24th last season at 54.6%.
And their defense is specifically equipped to handle the Celtics offense.
As mentioned, the Celtics are first in attempts from three and fifth in accuracy. However, the Hawks give up the fifth-fewest 3-point attempts (32.3%) and are second-best at defending the three (32.7%).
While the Celtics don’t attempt many shots at the rim, they are top 10 in scoring at the rim when they do attempt them. But the Hawks are also top 10 at defending the rim despite giving up the third-most.
The Hawks’ defensive improvement and unique offensive game plan make them a good matchup against the Celtics.
We saw these squads face off four times last season and in every contest it was a tale of two teams.
They split the season series 2-2, but the closest final score was a nine-point win by the Celtics on March 1 in their last meeting of the regular season.
In each meeting last season, including two the season before, the home team won and covered by an average of 12.2 points per game.
In other words, the home team is 6-0 in the last six meetings between the two squads. And when they win, they win big.
I’ll take the home dog in this matchup at anything in the plus range. I might nibble on the Hawks alternative spread for half a unit if the price is right. Make sure to follow in the Action Network app!
Pick: Atlanta Hawks +3