#1 – Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks enter the postseason as one of the most underrated 60-win teams in the history of the league. The Hawks sit at the top of the East with home court advantage through the Conference Finals, at the very least. Atlanta swept the regular season series versus Brooklyn, winning three of the four contests by double digit margins – including a 32-point shellacking on April 4. While the Hawks lack a truly dominant star, the team features high-character guys who play within their system, rarely play outside of their individual strengths and possess strong team chemistry.
Part of what makes the Hawks special is their teamwork, which leads to maximum efficiency. The Hawks ranked second in the league in assists per game (25.7) driven by the fact that the majority of Atlanta’s rotation guys are capable of knocking down shots from the perimeter with range. Atlanta players have been extremely consistent in finding teammates for buckets throughout the campaign. Their ISO days of yesteryear are long in the rear-view mirror. The team was 49-6 during the regular season when out-assisting their opponents.
But the offensive side of the ball isn’t the only area where Atlanta thrives. Defensively, the team ranks seventh in overall efficiency (100.7) and finished fifth in steals per contest (9.1).
#8 – Brooklyn Nets
It took the Brooklyn Nets all 82 games of the regular season to punch their playoff ticket and as a congratulatory note now face the Atlanta Hawks, who were able to dominate and sweep them during the campaign.
However, the Nets have been a truly resilient bunch. After a rocky start to the season, the team rallied to post a 17-13 record after the All-Star break.
On paper, the Nets appear to be outgunned headed into their first round matchup, but the team does feature a couple of advantages they’ll look to exploit.
Former All-Star center Brook Lopez has been on a tear since the All-Star break, averaging 19.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 30 contests. Lopez scored at least 18 points in three of the four matchups versus Atlanta this season and there’s no doubt the Nets will look to exploit Atlanta’s feisty but undersized frontline in this series.
Who Wins Game 1?
The Atlanta Hawks will win Game 1 at home to start off the series.
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