Hawks vs Celtics Picks and Predictions: ATL Exceeds Offensive Expectations

The Hawks are trendy picks to be crushed by the mighty Celtics, but books are undervaluing ATL's offense, which has improved under Quin Snyder — our NBA picks have the scoop.

Last Updated: Apr 15, 2023 8:29 AM ET Read Time: 4 min
Trae Young NBA playoffs
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The second game of the NBA playoffs on Saturday, April 15 stays in the Eastern Conference, with the No. 2-seeded Boston Celtics hosting the No. 7 Atlanta Hawks, who won their way into this matchup with an impressive showing against the Miami Heat.

The Hawks will be looking to keep the improbable upsets going at TD Garden, but they’re in for tough sledding against a Boston team that many have pegged as favorites to win it all.

Our NBA picks and predictions for Hawks vs. Celtics believe that betting markets are underrating the offensive strides taken by Atlanta under Quin Snyder’s tutelage. 

Hawks vs Celtics best odds

Hawks vs Celtics picks and predictions

This might not be one of the sexiest first-round series, but the chess match between the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics should still see plenty of fireworks. There’s real reason to think that Atlanta’s offensive potential is being underrated by betting markets, which is why I’m targeting the Over on their points total for my first best bet of the playoffs.

Many people were shocked when the Hawks summarily dispatched the Miami Heat in the 7-8 play-in game. Less so that they won at all, more so how they did it. That the Hawks outmuscled and outworked the Heat on the glass — pounding a team, that had so thoroughly beaten them in the 2022 playoffs, into submission was startling.

It was the culmination of changes that have been made to the Hawks’ offensive philosophy since the midseason hiring of Quin Snyder. Snyder is one of the best schematic coaches in the NBA, evidenced by how the Utah Jazz always outperformed their talent on both ends under his tenure. They generally got good shots and each player knew their role and played within it. It was clear at times in previous iterations of this Hawks team that they lacked such offensive cohesion.

Since the Snyder hiring on February 26th, the Hawks have scored a scorching 121.1 points per 100 possessions, the fourth-best mark in the NBA in that span. The thing is, they haven’t even shot that well. The improvement is largely coming from where they’re getting their shots, increased foul drawing, and as we saw against the Heat, offensive rebounding.

The Hawks have been a middling offensive rebounding team for some time, but under Snyder, they have had the second-highest offensive rebounding percentage in the Association at 31.5%. They smartly calculated that the Heat would not punish them by outworking them in transition and utilized their wings to crash the glass alongside Clint Capela.

This total seems anchored to the miserable offensive showing the Hawks gave against the Heat in last year's playoffs, but that’s a poor reference point. For one thing, due to the acquisition of Dejounte Murray and significantly better team health, they’re almost a completely different roster. On top of that, nobody on the Celtics can mirror the perimeter switching of Bam Adebayo that gave Trae Young so much difficulty.

The Hawks scored less than 111 points just one time in their previous 18 games, two of which came against these same Celtics. While I favor playing Unders the longer a series goes, the total for Saturday’s game is set as if this Atlanta team hasn’t become one of the better offenses in the NBA over the last month and a half.

My best bet: Atlanta Hawks Over 110.5 points (-110 at betway)

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Hawks vs Celtics spread analysis

The Celtics are getting a lot of respect from oddsmakers at -9, and justifiably so. Boston swept the season series 3-0, outscoring the Hawks by a total of 40 points over the three contests. While these two teams have had comparable offenses recently, the Celtics' defense is simply leaps and bounds better than Atlanta’s.

One of the key questions facing the Hawks in this game, and the series more broadly, will be whether they can they prevent Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown from getting to the rim. While Boston is a 3-point-shooting-focused offense, they still need drives and interior scoring to get opposing teams in rotation and to create open corner shots. 

In previous meetings, Tatum has had little issue beating his man one on one and getting right to the hoop, either to finish himself or to drive and kick. The Hawks have a bunch of wing-sized players, but none of them are elite stoppers, nor do they have a Brook Lopez-type on the backline to funnel driving players into (with apologies to Capela, who is good, but not that kind of rim-protecting force). 

The Hawks are just 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games, and 0-6 ATS against teams like the Celtics with a winning percentage above .600. The Celtics by also a dominant home team, going 6-1 ATS in their last seven at home.

Hawks vs Celtics Over/Under analysis

The Hawks are being severely underrated as an offense for Saturday’s game, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think the Celtics will have much trouble scoring either. For a defense-first team, they go about getting their points in a bit of a different fashion. They had the fifth-lowest transition frequency in the NBA per Cleaning the Glass, and a well-below-average conversion rate as well. 

But they can afford to rely less on transition than other teams because they’re an otherworldly offense overall. Prior to a midseason lull, the Celtics were on track to be a historically-good shooting team (they grade out as merely “awesome” in the end). Boston finished with the fourth-best offense in the NBA and has four players who are volume 3-point shooters hitting at a 40% clip or above. 

That means there is some variance to their offensive outings if the threes dry up, but they’re going to have size and strength enough to overpower the Hawks in almost any matchup alignment anyway. Tatum and Brown are a rough cover for most defenses, and Young will have no place to hide on defense against Boston’s bigger guards. The Over has cashed in five of Boston’s last seven games.

Hawks vs Celtics betting trend to know

Over is 5-2 in Celtics last seven overall. Find more NBA betting trends for Hawks vs. Celtics.

Hawks vs Celtics game info

Location: TD Garden, Boston, MA
Date: Saturday, April 15, 2023
Tip-off: 3:30 p.m. ET

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