Thereâ€™s little doubt in anyoneâ€™s mind that the Boston Celtics are going to sweep the Atlanta Hawks out of the first round of the NBA playoffs. Boston took the first two games of their best-of-seven series at the Garden, easily covering the 15-point spread in both cases. Odds had yet to be posted at press time for Saturdayâ€™s Game 3, but the Câ€™s should remain overwhelming favorites in Atlanta.
The Garden was electric Wednesday night following some disparaging comments Hawks point guard Mike Bibby made toward Bostonâ€™s supposedly fair-weather fans. Adding to the atmosphere, Kevin Garnett received both a standing ovation and his Defensive Player of the Year award during the pre-game. Hawks fans have waited since 1999 for the playoffs; if they can match Wednesday nightâ€™s fan support, there is a real possibility that Atlanta will steal an emotional Game 3.
Beating the spread would be considerably more reasonable. Bibby has been outmatched during this series by Rajon Rondo; after two games, Bibby has two assists. Rondo has 17. With Bibby underperforming, Acie Law was given 21 minutes in Game 2 and responded with 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting â€“ but also turned the ball over four times.
Both games in Boston went under the posted total, which dipped from 190.5 points in Game 1 to 189 in Game 2. Garnett and his teammates (whom he thanked for the Defensive POY award) were the best defenders in the league this year. Atlantaâ€™s offense was ranked No. 16 out of the 30 NBA clubs.
Tip-off is Saturday night at 8 pm ET, with ESPN handling the coverage.