Hawks vs. Celtics Game 2: Back Boston Early

Roberto Arguello of Action Network previews Game 2 of the NBA playoff series featuring the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics on Tuesday, April 17.

Hawks vs. Celtics Odds

Hawks Odds +10.5
Celtics Odds -10.5
Over/Under 229.5
Time 7 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Boston Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks for Game 2 of their first-round NBA playoff series on Tuesday night. Boston beat Atlanta by the score of 112-99 in Game 1 on Saturday.

Boston jumped out to a commanding 74-44 halftime lead, and although Atlanta went on a 32-12 second-half run that cut the deficit to 96-84, the result was never in doubt.

The Celtics won easily because they won the 3-point battle — shooting 39% (13-for-33) over the Hawks’ 17% (5-for-29) — while also winning the rebounding battle (58-45).

Can the Hawks get some better 3-point variance and/or generate extra possessions on the glass to spur an upset in Game 2? Let’s find out as we dive into our Hawks vs. Celtics Game 2 betting preview and prediction.

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Atlanta Hawks

The math battle doesn’t favor the Hawks, so they need to do a better job of winning on the boards while also getting an off-shooting night from the Celtics in order to cover or pull the outright upset.

The Hawks took the second-most midrange shots and the fewest 3-point attempts per possession in the NBA regular season, per Cleaning The Glass. This means their offensive ceiling is limited because of their low volume of 3-point shots, especially considering they only made 35.3% of 3s (24th in the NBA).

Saddiq Bey and Bogdan Bogdanovic, the only two Hawks in the rotation who took a high frequency of 3s and made them at a high percentage in the regular season, need to step up, especially after shooting a combined 3-for-11 from behind the arc in Game 1.

Of course, Hawks stars Trae Young and Dejounte Murray also need to be more effective offensively, in addition to getting some better 3-point variance. They combined to go 1-for-11 on 3s and 15-for-43 overall from the field as the Celtics effectively made life tough for them.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics have a variety of ways to win and cover as they are bigger, more athletic and generally the better offensive and defensive team.

Simply put, when the Celtics are firing on all cylinders, they are the best team in the NBA — their odds to win the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals reflect that. Unless Marcus Smart is dominating the ball on offense, they don’t have any major weaknesses other than off-shooting nights on high volume from beyond the arc.

In Game 1, the Hawks provided little resistance at the rim; Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown got downhill consistently as the Celtics’ spacing made it tough for Hawks bigs to provide weak-side rim protection. Tatum and Brown can get to the basket directly against their primary defenders after forcing switches and on cuts, which means that if 3s aren’t falling, the Hawks still may not be able to stop the Celtics offense.

Brown is playing with a cut on his right hand that he suffered when a vase broke while he was watering his plants. This caused him to miss two games at the end of the regular season. He said the wound split open during Game 1, although he still finished with a game-high 29 points on 12-for-23 shooting from the field and 2-for-6 on 3s.

The Celtics defense threw their fastball by playing in a drop with Al Horford and Robert Williams, while Derrick White played a key role in weaving over screens and forcing Young into tough contested shots. The Hawks didn’t have a great answer to this, and if the Celtics can continue to constrict space for the Hawks with their drop defense, it could get ugly early again.

Brown also played tough on-ball defense against Murray. The Hawks need to incorporate Murray more on cuts and relocations to get him easier looks against an elite defense.

Hawks-Celtics Pick

Boston has advantages on both ends of the court due to its superior size, superstars, versatility and math.

The Celtics have the better team, and although they dominated in the first half of Game 1, the Hawks clawed back in the second half to lose by only 13, which gives us a slight discount in Game 2.

Expect the Celtics to start strong against the Hawks offensively as they still have the considerable upper hand. The key to Game 2 will be whether the Hawks can adjust offensively, but given their poor analytical profile (high midrange volume combined with low 3-point volume and efficiency), they have little margin for error.

I’m betting the Celtics First Quarter -3.5 as they should continue to stifle the Hawks offense with their drop defense while their own offense continues to hum with Tatum and Brown leading the way.

I’d bet this down to -4.5 at -110.

Pick: Celtics 1Q -3.5 (-110) | Play to -4.5 (-110)