Analysis: The Hawks' 60 regular-season victories are the most in the team's history, but it's playoff success the fan base craves. Despite making the postseason for the eighth consecutive year, the Hawks haven't won two playoff series in a season since 1958, back when the team was based in St. Louis.
But this squad doesn't have the same look of recent teams to exit the playoffs early. Their identity starts with second-year coach Mike Budenholzer, formerly a Spurs assistant from 1996 to 2013. The time Budenholzer spent with Greg Popovich is most evident in the team's commitment to defense and ball movement. The Hawks rank fifth in points allowed, surrendering 97.1 points per game. Their motion offense has contributed to even scoring distribution among the starting five, where each member averages between 12.1 and 16.7 points per game.
With the team's first No. 1 seed since 1994, the stakes are raised in Atlanta. Anything short of a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals will be a disappointing finish to a stellar season.
Analysis: The Nets are the only team in the postseason with a negative point differential at -2.9. The East's No. 8-seed earned its appearance by beating the Orlando Magic in the final game of the regular season, coupled with a loss by the Indiana Pacers. That makes three consecutive postseason trips for Brooklyn, despite employing four head coaches during the stretch.
Oft-injured Brook Lopez logged 72 games this season, posting 17.2 points, 7.4 boards and 1.8 blocks, all team-highs. Second in the scoring column was Joe Johnson, who averaged 14.4 points per game, his lowest since the 2002-03 season. At point guard, the demise of Deron Williams continues to confound. His scoring output has declined in each of the past three seasons, from 21.0 points per game in 2011-12 to 13.0 points this year.
The Nets played their first-round opponent four times this season, dropping all four games to the Hawks by an average score of 114.0-96.8. Two of those losses came in April. It all adds up a short playoff stay for the Nets.
Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Hawks 87.1% - Nets 12.9%
Average Score: Hawks 102.6 - Nets 95.3
Series MVP: Jeff Teague - 15.3 PPG, 7.2 APG, 3.0 RPG
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