Tom Ziller of SB Nation has this playoff snapshot going into the final game tomorrow night:
The Hawks' win coupled with the Boston Celtics' J.V. win over the Miami Heat kept the race for home court advantage in the East 4-5 series alive. Boston hasn't exactly been pushing the issue, benching starters in an effort to seek rest over home court, but the Celtics can still claim the advantage in the first round series by beating the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday and watching the Dallas Mavericks beat the Hawks. Atlanta simply needs the opposite of either one of those results to happen.
I've been beating this drum since Doc rolled out a similar JV lineup against the Hawks last Friday in Atlanta: home court advantage matters. Doc has obviously opted for heath over HCA, but I'm worried that that's a little shortsighted. Let's remember that unlike the Finals, the playoff format for the earlier rounds is 2-2-1-1-1. If either team can win on the other's floor, Game 5 could be a clincher and shorter series means more rest. There's also the small matter of travelling to Atlanta this weekend rather than enjoying a few more days at home.
We shouldn't be looking over the Hawks either. Like the Celtics, they're a low margin for error team. They can win ugly and they're getting Al Horford back. We've won the season series against them, but our two wins were very close. Admittedly, both games came at the tail end of some brutal road trips, but we can't discount how scrappy they can be; they're a mix of grizzled vets and lunch pail grinders. The last thing Boston needs going into a potential series with the Bulls is a bar fight with the likes of Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson. Oh, and they've also got that large chip on their shoulder from 2008.
My default as a fan is worry and concern, but this team has strived with adversity. Maybe starting the campaign for #18 on the road will prove to be yet another galvanizing force in their quest. I hope that's true, but hindsight is 50/50 and if that loss in Atlanta on April 20th (TO THE TEAM WE'RE JOCKEYING FOR FOR PLAYOFF POSITION!) was a tipping point, it's going to be tough to swallow that regret.