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Must Win Game?

First I want to recognize that the Boston Celtics are better than the Atlanta Hawks. In fact I’ve even come up with the Top Ten Reasons why:

10. Boston has a lot more guys that know and accept their roles. For example James Posey knows what is expected of him and what he is capable of doing. Meanwhile, Marvin Williams is still trying to figure out his ceiling as a player. Winning can take a back seat when guys are still obsessed with contracts, endorsements and making a name for themselves. Along those same lines Josh Smith and Coach Mike Woodson frequently get into arguments on the sidelines. I’m convinced that is not good for the Atlanta Hawks.

9. Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge are on the same page. The same can not be said for Billy Knight and Mike Woodson. Yes all of the winning influenced Rivers' decision-making. But he also had the luxury to play Tony Allen as much as he could, let Rajon Rondo be the starter from day one, develop Leon Powe and so on, because his job was safe. Contrast that with Woodson who was desperate to make the playoffs to either save his job or improve his resume. I recognize that this comparison is not fair because the teams were under entirely different circumstances. But Woodson could not worry about Salim Stoudamire’s development. That counts for something.

8. Regular season records. Boston: 66-16. Atlanta: 37-45. At some point you are what you are. 

7. The Celtics are one of two teams that beat every team in the NBA this season.

6. Head to head match up. Boston 5, Atlanta 1.

5. Doc Rivers and company are better coaches than Mike Woodson’s gang.

4. The C’s are deeper.

3. The Celtics, Saturday night notwithstanding, move the ball far better on offense.

2. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have so much on the line from a legacy standpoint that I can’t imagine them letting this opportunity slip away in the first round.

1. Boston’s defense was historically good this season. Atlanta's was not.

And yet when it comes down to it a lot of those don’t really matter. For starters the Atlanta Hawks are not the same team that broke camp in October due to the arrival of Mike Bibby. While I would not rate his impact anywhere near that of Ray Allen and KG, it is noteworthy that Boston had a full training camp and regular season to put it all together. So those records are a bit misleading. Also it doesn’t really matter if the Hawks ownership is amongst the most dysfunctional in the league.

The bigger picture here is that the Hawks have to feel good about themselves after game three. And the fact remains that Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Josh Childress, Al Horford and Mike Bibby are dangerous if they can get out and run. Shooting 47% from the field and 55.6% (10-18) from deep doesn’t hurt either. Quite simply I’d prefer it if the Celtics finish this one out in 5. For all the clichés that have and will be thrown out I do buy the argument that Atlanta becomes more of a threat with each passing victory. Not just because it brings them closer to the magic number of 4. I really believe the Celtics succeed, in addition to their talent, coaching and fire, because they punch teams in the mouth and not all squads can respond. If the Hawks can take that punch and keep coming it is a little more interesting. Long story short a Celtics victory for all intents and purposes wraps this series up. A Hawks victory makes me start to think there could be a game 7.

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