The Eastern Conference’s top-seeded Atlanta Hawks square off against the seventh-seeded Brooklyn Nets in a best-of-seven first round NBA playoff series. The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the better NBA teams since they traded Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets back in 2012 and they’ll now have the chance to play them in the opening round. The Hawks started slowly at 7-6 this season before turning it up a notch and at one point won 19 straight games and possessed a 40-8 record. All five of their starters managed to have excellent seasons and Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, and Jeff Teague were all named to the All-Star team. However, the squad struggled down the stretch by going 20-14 over their last 34 games for a 60-22 final record of 60-22.
Atlanta Hawks vs Brooklyn Nets NBA Playoff Betting Preview – bet365 currently lists the Hawks as the favorites to win the series at 1/30 with the Nets at 29/2 to rebound after dropping the first game
Brooklyn hired Lionel Hollins as the team’s fourth head coach in the past three seasons and had one of the highest payrolls in the league, but nobody really earned their big salary. The Nets weren’t able to trade anybody away since their stars weren’t producing and were basically being overpaid. There was one big deal though as Kevin Garnett was traded in February and headed back to Minnesota at the trade deadline for forward Thaddeus Young. The newcomer was one of the Nets better players and center Brook Lopez also had a decent season as he racked up a pair of Eastern Conference Player of the Week awards toward the end of the campaign when the team won six straight games.
The Nets then dropped four out of six games, but still managed to make the postseason by beating the Orlando Magic in the final week and finished with a 38-44 mark for the season. The Hawks had their way with Brooklyn during the regular season by sweeping them 4-0 in their meetings. They also got a quick jump in the playoff series by taking the opening game by a relatively close score of 99-92 in Atlanta. The Hawks won each of the regular-season outings by 17.2 points a game on average and thumped the Nets by 32-points earlier this month with small forward DeMarre Carroll leading the way for Atlanta.
The Nets were also beaten 114-111 in April, 113-102 back in January, and were beaten by 23 points in December. The Hawks will go with Millsap, Horford, Carroll, Teague and Korver as their starters. They ranked sixth in the league in defensive efficiency and allowed their opposition to score on just 34.1 percent of their attempted three-pointers this year, which was seventh best. In addition, the Hawks ranked sixth best in offensive efficiency and second best in three-point percentage.
The Nets starters will be Lopez, Young, Johnson, Markel Brown and Deron Williams with Bojan Bogdanovic likely replacing Brown during the games. Brooklyn’s defense was ranked number 23 in the NBA this season with their offense coming in at 20th. The seven-foot-tall Lopez will need to have a standout series if the Nets have a chance, but it’s highly doubtful the Hawks will drop four games to them.