Wednesday, October 4 2023

Why Dejounte Murray is relishing first-round matchup with Celtics originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Atlanta Hawks will be heavy underdogs in their first-round playoff series with the Boston Celtics, who boast the NBA’s second-best record and reached the NBA Finals just one year ago.

That’s just how Dejounte Murray likes it.

Atlanta drew the Celtics in Round 1 by upsetting the No. 7 seed Miami Heat 116-105 in an NBA play-in tournament matchup that few expected the Hawks to win. After the game, Murray threw shade at the “experts” who unanimously counted Atlanta out.

Beating an aging Heat team with the NBA’s worst offense is one thing, but taking on a deep, hungry Celtics squad will be much stiffer challenge. Still, Murray admitted Tuesday night that he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love [the matchup],” Murray said, via The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn. “Obviously Boston’s at the top because they went to the Finals last year. But last year is last year.

“Me personally, I want the best. That’s how I was raised, to want to play the best. Boston is one of the best and it’s going to be a great series and we’re going to go out there and try to win.”

That’s the mindset Murray and the Hawks should have. They have nothing to lose and would exceed expectations simply by making it a competitive series.

The Celtics are heavy favorites for a reason, however. They finished second in the NBA in both offensive and defensive rating this season and boast one of the league’s deepest rotations, led by arguably its best duo in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

While the Hawks had the NBA’s third-best offense this season, they’re a terrible defensive team that allowed 120 points or more in 41 of its 82 regular-season games.

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Murray’s comments are a reminder that Boston can’t take Atlanta for granted, and that the Hawks will show up to Boston for Saturday’s Game 1 with a chip on their shoulder.

The Celtics need to match or exceed Atlanta’s intensity from the jump, and if they do, they can make Murray love the matchup a whole lot less.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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