Preview: Boston Takes On Atlanta In A Game That Might Actually Mean More To Boston

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Boston Celtics (52-22, 23-14 away) @ Atlanta Hawks (43-32, 23-15 home)
Time: 8:00 PM ESP, Friday, April 1st, 2011
Venue: Phillips Arena, Atlanta GA
Officials: Monty McCutchen, Tony Brown, Jason Phillips (click for full report)
TV: ESPN, CSN-NE, NBAC Radio: WEEI,  WQXI, 99X FM
The Line: The Celtics are 2-0 against Atlanta this season after being
swept by the Hawks in 4 regular season games last season.
The Countdowninator: 8 regular season thingys left.

GAME THREAD | CHAT ROOM

 

I'm as shocked as you are. Who knew back in early January, when the Celtics were on top of the world, that with only 8 games left, a regular season game against the Hawks would mean more to Boston?

Well here we are. Atlanta sits very comfortably in the number 5 seed. So comfortably in fact that while not mathematically impossible, it is practically impossible that they'll move from it. They can't overtake Orlando for the 4th seed, as Orlando is a solid 4 games up on Atlanta there. The Hawks also probably cannot fall below New York and get the 6th seed, as New York is a solid 4 games below the Hawks. Also, while this game may or may not have playoff implications, Atlanta just got done with their 'emotionally charged late regular season matchup against probable playoffs opponent' two days ago when they beat likely first round matchup Orlando by 3 points. 

Pretty much all Atlanta is playing for now is for general swag and to pass the time until the playoffs. However, that is not the case for Boston.

Boston hit what I think might be fairly called a season low for '11 this past Monday, when despite being in a prime position to steal a game on Chicago and Miami (which they didn't know at the time), Boston still dropped a 7pt loss to Indiana, a team they had blown out just weeks before. After the loss (but before the Bulls or Heat games) people got pretty up in arms. as did the Celtics players. Allegedly Ray Allen was mad, or something. Paul Pierce was unsatisfied. Kevin Garnett was swearing aimlessly into the cold spring air outside Conseco field house. They needed a boost, a catalyzing event.  

Well they got it last night. An absolute 4th quarter thrashing of the Spurs should've given hope to even the most dour of Celtics players and fans that maybe they might even be able to surpass Chicago for the #1 seed, let alone keep their current half game advantage on Miami.They would just need to finish out strong, and with a singular purpose of winning games while playing Celtics basketball.

Would the Hawks like to win this game? Sure they would. Everyone likes to beat the Celtics. Plus, they've got a real advantage in being the more rested team, while Boston recovers from not only a game last night, but also a time-zone change and a plane ride that probably got in some time in the wee hours of the morning today. I think its pretty obvious that the Hawks have both the desire and ability to win tonight's game.

However the question is not whether Atlanta feels like they can win tonight. The real question is do the Boston Celtics feel like they need to win tonight's game? I have no idea, but I like to think so. In any case, we'll know withing the first 15 minutes whether or not Boston came to play.

Probable Starting Line-ups, Team Connections, Keys To The Game and Matchups all courtesy of Celticsblog Patron Saint, FLCeltsFan


Probable Starters
 PG: Rajon Rondo  10.4 PPG   11.3 APG   2.3 SPG

SG: Ray Allen 17.0 PPG  2.7 APG  .452 3P%

 SF: Paul Pierce  18.7 PPG 5.1 RPG 3.3 APG

 PF:  Kevin Garnett  14.7 PPG  9.0 RPG 0.8 BPG

C: Glen Davis   11.8 PPG  5.6 RPG  0.4 BPG  


Boston Bench Mob
Jermaine O'Neal
Jeff Green
Delonte West
Sasha Pavlovic
Carlos Arroyo
Avery Bradley
Von Wafer

Injured
Shaquille O'Neal (Achilles) out
Troy Murphy (ankle) questionable





Probable Starters
 PG Kirk Hinrich  10.7 PPG  4.1 APG   1.1 SPG

 SG Joe Johnson 18.5 PPG  4.9 APG  .304 3P%  

 SF Josh Smith  16.7 PPG  8.7 RPG  1.6 BPG  

 PF  Al Horford  15.7 PPG  9.5 RPG 3.6 APG

C Jason Collins  2.0 PPG 2.0 RPG  0.2 BPG

Hawks Bench
Marvin Williams
Jamal Crawford
Hilton Armstrong
Zaza Pachulia
Jeff Teague
Josh Powell
Etan Thomas  
Damien Wilkins
Pape Sy

Injuries
None

Team Connections
Josh Smith and Rajon Rondo both attended Oak Hill Academy
Doc Rivers played for the Hawks from 1983‐91
Rivers also holds the Hawks record for most assists in a career as a Hawk (3,866)
Celtics Assistant Coach Armond Hill played for the Hawks from 1976‐80 and also during the 1983‐84 season
Joe Johnson was originally drafted by the Celtics with the 10th
pick in the 2001 draft…
Hawks Assistant Coach Lester Conner was an Assistant Coach with the Celtics from 1998‐2004
Paul Pierce and Kirk Hinrich both attended Kansas
Ray Allen and Hilton Armstrong both attended the University of Connecticut
Josh Powell and Jermaine O’Neal were teammates in Indiana during the 2006‐07 season
Jeff Green and Damien Wilkins were teammates in Seattle and Oklahoma City from 2007‐09
Nenad Krstic and Jason Collins were teammates in New Jersey from 2004‐08
Krstic and Wilkins were teammates in Oklahoma City during the 2008‐09 season
Sasha Pavlovic and Damien Wilkins played together on the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2009‐10

Key Matchups
 vs  
Ray Allen vs Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson is athletic and quick and can score in bunches.  Ray Allen is capable of scoring in bunches also if he is given the ball early to get into his rhythm.  If Ray runs off his multitude of screens, Johnson may be too tired to be effective on the offensive end.  

 vs  
Paul Pierce vs Josh Smith
Josh Smith is strong and has a couple inches on Pierce.  Smith usually plays the power forward spot but the Hawks have been playing with a big lineup with Smith at the 3 and Horford at the 4.  Smith will be a handful for Pierce on both ends of the court.  

Honorable Mention
Rajon Rondo vs Kirk Hinrich  
As has been all season, as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics.  Hopefully Rondo will be aggressive and get back to running the offense and distributing the ball.  

Keys to the Game
Defense - This is the key to every game and to winning the  championship this year.  The Hawks are a good 3 point shooting team as well as having the ability to get to the basket and so the Celtics must defend both the perimeter and the paint.

Rebound -  The Celtics have been giving up too many rebounds.  With Horford and Smith inside, if the Celtics don't box out and get the defensive boards, the Hawks will make them pay with second chance baskets.    When the Celtics don't put out the effort on the boards, the effort isn't there in other parts of the game either.  

Be Aggressive- The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team.  They need to win the battle on the boards.  They need to win the 50-50 battle and the battle for loose balls and hustle points. And they need to be more aggressive defensively.   The more aggressive team usually gets the benefit of the calls and have the momentum.  

Play as a Team - The Celtics must get back to playing team ball.  They have to move the ball, make the extra pass and find the open man.  They won't win playing hero ball.  They also have to play as a team on defense, being sure to have each others backs on defense.  

X-Factor
Back to Back
This is the second back to back set in a row.  The Celtics have struggled all season in back to back games.   Every game is important if the Celtics want to avoid slipping to the 3rd seed.  If the Celtics put out the effort, they can win this game but they have to want it more. 

 

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