Nothing like a good x-factors discussion to really get the NBA Playoffs kicked into the right gear. With Boston getting Atlanta following their impressive win over the Heat in the play-in, the Celtics are faced with a tricky foe, but not necessarily one they’ve had issues beating.
The Jays have dealt with this team the last two seasons including a 3-0 record in 2022-2023. But that was the regular season, and with the playoffs, there will have to be a few players who step up to give the Jays a hand. Let’s get into my two main x-factors, starting with Robert Williams.
Talking about Robert Williams vs. the Hawks is a loaded topic. He hasn’t played against them at all this season and even in the games he played against them last year, Quin Snyder wasn’t the head coach. However, he registered his 2nd highest minutes played total against the Hawks last season across three games and absolutely dominated. He registered a 140 offensive rating and a 103 defensive rating while pulling down almost 13 rebounds a game.
The main thing that makes him an x-factor for me is the offensive rebounds. Clint Capela ate up the Miami Heat during the play-in, helping lead Atlanta to a 63-39 rebounding split with 22 of those coming on the offensive side. This led to a huge discrepancy in paint scoring, 64-46 in favor of the Hawks.
Last year, Rob Williams pulled down 14 offensive rebounds in three games against Atlanta with 11 of them leading to second-chance points. Capela is always going to be a beast on the boards, maybe not 21 rebounds in a game good like he did against Miami, but Rob’s minutes will likely mirror Capela’s throughout the series. Controlling the boards, giving the Jays more chances against the weaker wing core of Atlanta, and not letting Capela get hot in the paint will be huge for Rob.
Oh, and Rob is an X-factor simply because he’s healthy. Yes, Rob Williams is 100% healthy. It’s a Christmas miracle in April. He started 20 games this year, Celtics were 15-5. If he plays the entire playoffs, it’s fair to wonder just how many games Boston will lose.
The other major x-factor against Atlanta will come from one of the perimeter bench options. It’s a real shame that Danilo Gallinari is still hurt. He’d be an incredible mismatch against his former team that doesn’t have a true defender for him coming off the bench. So, ho hum, we’re left with another 6’8” 40% 3-point shooter in Sam Hauser.
Hauser’s come-up this season has truly been special. With another 40%-from-3 season, The Athletic’s Jay King tells us that he has now hit that number every season of his life since he left high school. Through four college seasons ad now two in the NBA including G-League, he’s cemented himself as one of the premier shooters in the world. Unfortunately for Atlanta, he’s been especially good against them.
Neight from Celtics Twitter pointed out that Sam Hauser has shot 17-25 from 3 in their three games while scoring at least 12 points in every contest. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise considering the rosters of their two teams. Outside of a guy like Saddiq Bey, there aren’t a ton of options for Atlanta off the bench to really press Hauser off the ball. Watching Dejounte Murray and Trae Young try to run through screens and get to Hauser behind the arc is quite entertaining when you rewatch their games. We’ll see plenty of that when the series starts this weekend.
The Celtics are probably quite happy that Atlanta is their first-round opponent. The matchups are there, the depth difference is a bit appalling, and most importantly, the Celtics are HEALTHY. Mission accomplished. All that’s left now is getting 16 wins, but let’s start with 4 in Round 1.