Celtics visit Hawks looking to play spoiler

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics and Hawks clash for the 4th and final time this season with the Hawks trying to clinch the playoffs and the Celtics trying to play spoiler.

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Boston Celtics (23-54) at Atlanta Hawks (34-43)
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
7:30 PM ET
Game #78 Road Game #39
TV: CSNNE, SPSO, NBA-LP 757(DTV), 755(Xfinity)
Radio: WBZ, 92.9 FM
Philips Arena
Referees: Danny Crawford, Brent Barnaky, Tony Brown

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The Celtics and Hawks clash for the 4th and final time this season. The Celtics lead the series 2 games to 1 with the Hawks winning one of the games in Boston and the Celtics winning once in Boston and once in Atlanta.

The Celtics have been off since Sunday while the Hawks are playing in the second of back to back games. The Celtics are 1-9 in their last 10 games and 8-30 on the road while the Hawks are 3-7 in their last 10 games and 22-15 at home. The Celtics have lost their last 8 games while the Hawks had won 2 games before losing their last game.

Avery Bradley practiced on Monday and Tuesday and is expected to return to the starting lineup in this game. Jared Sullinger suffered a thigh bruise in their last game and sat out practice on Monday but practiced on Tuesday and is expected to play in this game. Kris Humphries didn't travel with the team and is scheduled for an MRI on his sore knee.

The Hawks are sitting in the 8th spot in the East, only 1.5 games ahead of the Knicks. The Celtics have the 4th worst record and are 1 game ahead of the Jazz who have the 5th worst record and 1 game behind the Magic for the 3rd worst record.


Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard

vs
Rajon Rondo vs Jeff Teague

Shooting Guard
vs
Avery Bradley vs Kyle Korver

Small Forward

vs
Jeff Green vs Demarre Carroll

Power Forward
vs
Brandon Bass vs Paul Millsap

Center

vs
Jared Sullinger vs Pero Antic




Celtics Reserves
Joel Anthony
Chris Johnson
Chris Babb
Jerryd Bayless
Phil Pressey
Kelly Olynyk

Injuries
Keith Bogans (personal) out
Vitor Faverani (knee) out
Gerald Wallace (knee) out
Kris Humphries (knee) out
Avery Bradley (Achilles) probable
Jared Sullinger (thigh) probable


Hawks Reserves
Mike Scott
Dennis Shroder
Elton Brand
Shelvin Mack
Cartier Martin
Mike Muscala

Injuries
Gustavo Ayon (shoulder) questionable
John Jenkins (back) out
Al Horford (shoulder) out
Lou Williams (hamstring) questionable

Key Matchups
vs
Rajon Rondo vs Jeff Teague
Teague is a good young point guard and is averaging 16.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 6.8 assists. Rondo will need to set the pace for the Celtics and keep Teague from getting the Hawks into their offense quickly. This should be a good matchup.

vs
Brandon Bass vs Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap is playing very well, averaging 17.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Brandon Bass will need to contain Millsap and also make him work on defense.

Honorable Mention
Avery Bradley vs Kyle Korver
Korver is averaging 12.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists. Korver can get hot at any time and put up points in a hurry. Avery will need to keep him from scoring, especially from beyond the arc.

Keys to the Game
Play 48 Minutes
- The Celtics have periods where they play great and then they have stretches when they can't hit a shot and can't defend and turn the ball over on every possession. They have to find a way to be consistent from start to finish, especially down the final stretch of the game. .

Defense - The Hawks depend on the three to score. They are 2nd in the league attempting 25.3 3-pointers a game and they are 1st in the league, making 9.5 3's per game. They have several good shooters from distance and the Celtics must up their perimeter defense. They also have to defend the paint better. They have been allowing way too many easy points in the paint.

Rebound - The Celtics must crash the boards as a team, especially the guards. Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics must be the team that wants the win more and the team that wins the rebounding battle.

Set the Pace - The Celtics have to run on every possession. The Celtics have built leads in games by pushing the ball and getting easy shots before the defenses set up. Part of the reason they have given up those leads is that they stop running, stop pushing the ball inside, and stop moving the ball. They have to keep up the pace for the entire game.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team in going after loose balls, in rebounding, and in defending. They have to be aggressive in taking the ball inside and not settling for outside shots, especially when those shots aren't falling.

X-Factors
Rest vs Fatigue and Motivation
The Celtics come into this game rested while the Hawks are playing in the second of back to back games. Will fatigue be a factor for the Hawks down the stretch?
The Celtics motivation is simply to finish the year strong and play spoiler, while the Hawks are fighting to stay in the playoffs. Which motivation will be stronger?

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