How the Atlanta Hawks can help out the Sixers in the playoffs

Heat vs hawks
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) is greeted by Bogdan Bogdanovic as he leaves the game during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Wednesday, April 5, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Atlanta Hawks dismantling the Jimmy Butler-led Miami Heat in their seventh and eighth-seed Play-In Game to secure themselves a first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics could have significant ramifications for several postseason teams including the Philadelphia 76ers.

While Philly would likely prefer to have the Hawks on their side of the bracket in lieu of the Heat, Atlanta nabbing the seventh seed all but guarantees that the Sixers will have an imminent clash with the Cs in the second round, and Boston will probably be well-rested and relatively unscathed coming out of their first-round bout with the Hawks.

What the Atlanta Hawks vs Boston Celtics first-round series will look like

Trae Young has never played against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs, so there’s no recent postseason history to help predict this series. There is plenty of regular season data, however, and the numbers are not in favor of the Young-led Atlanta Hawks.

For his career, the former Oklahoma Sooner has a 4-11 record against the Cs, including 0-3 in their season series for 2022-2023. Between Boston’s switch-heavy scheme and the myriad of lengthy perimeter defenders they have to throw at him and Dejounte Murray, it’s unsurprising to see that these two ball-handlers have struggled against the Celtics defense.

In 2022-2023, Young put up fantastic counting stats against Boston, with 31 points and 11 assists per games in his two matchups against the Celtics, but struggled with his efficiency. To reach those numbers, he tallied just 44 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent from deep.

Murray struggled even worse against the Cs, failing to give Trae a reliable second option to help take pressure off of his point guard on offense. The Celtics held Dejounte to just 16.5 points and 4.5 assists per night on 46/17/0 shooting splits — he’s yet to get to the line against the Boston defense this year.

If Murray can’t elevate his game in the first round, the Celtics have a strong chance to sweep the Hawks entirely in 2022-2023. Regardless of how well Playoff Trae Young performs in his trademark role as a postseason heel, if he can’t get consistent aid from his supporting cast, it should be a relatively quick series between Atlanta and Boston.

How this could impact the Philadelphia 76ers

The Brooklyn Nets post Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and the Atlanta Hawks under newly minted Head Coach Quin Snyder are practically dead even in terms of record. Since the Nets traded away KD, they’ve gone 13-15. Since Snyder has taken the helm in Atlanta, the Hawks have gone 11-11.

While their opponents are on equal footing, the Boston Celtics may have an easier time sweeping their first-round series than the Philadelphia 76ers. Like the Cs, the Sixers have also dominated their regular season series against their first-round opponent. Philly went 4-0 against the Nets in 2022-2023, dismantling Brooklyn in their matchups with or without Durant and Irving.

That being said, if the Sixers were to sweep the Nets in their impending first-round battle, it would be the first first-round sweep for Joel Embiid in his NBA career. Since Boston is likely to knock off the Hawks in four, Philly would have to do the same to Brooklyn to keep pace with their inevitable semifinals opponent.

If they fail to do so, they risk allowing the Celtics to get more rest, heal, and prepare for the Sixers with more time and detail. Not to mention that the Sixers rely heavily on two injury-prone players as the superstars in Embiid and James Harden. The longer either of those two has to stay on the floor against the Nets, the larger the risk that one or both gets banged up.

The Philadelphia 76ers have to hope that the Atlanta Hawks can steal a game or two against the Boston Celtics. While the spirit of the game would demand that both teams enter their semifinals clash fully healthy, it wouldn’t hurt if the Cs were a little less energized coming into it.

AP Photo/John Bazemore