The Boston Celtics take on the Atlanta Hawks at 7 p.m. on TNT to open their first round series. A live stream of the game can be found here once the game begins.
The fourth seeded Celtics are starting what will likely be the final stretch for their big three. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are both free agents at the end of this year and it is unlikely that both will be back to join Paul Pierce.
The Hawks are in a similar situation. They have had their current core together for a while now without a deep playoff run. If they can't make something happen in this post season, Hawks management might just blow the team up and look for new pieces.
Both teams are playing for their survival as a group, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Saturday. If we win the series, and keep winning, you're going to want to build on this group. If we win, you may not see that (Hawks) team anymore.
In 2008 these two teams met in the first round. The Hawks won all three of their home games in front of a raucous crowd in Atlanta and nearly knocked off the Celtics in seven games. Boston used the momentum of that series to propel them all the way to a title.
Neither the Hawks nor the Celtics are at full strength coming into the series. Al Horford has been ruled out for Atlanta for the entire series, while Zaza Pachulia has missed seven games with a foot injury and doesn't figure to be back for the beginning of the series.
For Boston, Allen has missed most of the last two weeks thanks to an ankle injury that will require surgery at the end of the season. He has taken cortisone shots but he will be a game time decision for game one.
With just one game separating these teams over the course of the 66 game season this figures to be one of the closest and most compelling series of the first round of the playoffs. But the experience and talent of the Celtics should win out.
Prediction: Celtics in 6