(5) Boston Celtics at (4) Atlanta Hawks (-7, 199.5 o/u)
After blowing a 16-point lead in Game 4, the Atlanta Hawks (2-2, 2-0 home) will host the Boston Celtics (2-2, 0-2 road) at Philips Arena today (8:30 PM Eastern) with their first-round series now knotted at two games apiece.
It feels like the Hawks should be up in the series. They’re healthier and they’ve been the better team through most of the first four. But an inability to close out games has the depleted Celtics right back in the series.
The Hawks could only muster 19 fourth-quarter points in Game 4, and then a paltry three in the OT period, falling 104-95.
All credit to the Celtics, though. When point guard Avery Bradley was lost in Game 1, it looked like the writing was on the wall. The team only managed 72 points in Game 2 en route to a 17-point setback.
But there’s been no quit from Brad Stevens’ squad, even when they found themselves trailing by double-digits for most of Game 4.
The Hawks have long been lauded for their balance, but it was a one-man show on Sunday with power forward Paul Millsap pouring in 45 points. No other player on the team scored more than 13.
Riding the hot-hand isn’t a bad idea, but it’s not how Atlanta is used to playing. Milsap led the Hawks with 17.1 PPG in the regular season, but four others averaged double-figures.
With Bradley out, Boston needs contributions from its supporting cast, in particular the bench. Starter Isaiah Thomas led the way with 28 points in Game 4. Marcus Smart came off the bench to score 20, but no other reserve had more than two points.
While the series is tied, the Celtics have covered the spread in three of four (twice as underdogs) and the Hawks are 0-5 ATS in their last five games after a straight up loss.
Boston is figuring out how to succeed sans Bradley. They might not win tonight, but they should be able to keep it close a la Game 1 (a 102-101 Atlanta win).
Pick: Boston +6.5.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison, CC BY-SA 3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)