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Hawks Look to Avenge Playoff Loss to Celtics

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Atlanta Hawks (6-0) at Boston Celtics (7-1) Wednesday, November 12
7:30PM ET
Game #9, Home Game #5
TV: CSN HD, SportSouth, NBA LP 752
Radio: WEEI, 790 The Zone
TD Banknorth Garden

Game Thread l Chat

Hawks Blogs: Peachtree Hoops

The Hawks surprised everyone when they took the Celtics to the 7 games in the opening round of last year's playoffs. They picked up where they left off, winning their first 5 games of the season. They come into the Garden tonight to try to avenge their early exit from the playoffs at the hands of the eventual champs.

The Hawks have taken a page out of the Celtics book and are concentrating on defense. They are 2nd in the league in points allowed with 85.8 with only the Lakers better, allowing 84.4 points per game. The Celtics come in third allowing 86.75 points per game. The Hawks are limiting teams to 40.4% from the field that is third in the league behind the Celtics (38.2%) and Lakers (39%). They Hawks are also 2nd behind the Lakers (+22.4) in point differential with a +10.2 while the Celtics come in down the list at +6.62.

There are quite a few connections between these two teams. The most notable connection is that Doc Rivers was one of the Hawks stars in the Atlanta Air Force days. Celtics assistant coach, Armond Hill, also played for the Hawks. Rajon Rondo and Josh Smith were teammates at Oak Hill Academy and Rondo and Randolph Morris were teammates at Kentucky. Joe Johnson was the Celtics 10th pick in the 2001 draft. Eddie House and Mike Bibby are brothers in law. Mo Evans and KG were teammates in Minnesota. And Hawks assistant coach, Alton Lister, played for the Celtics from 1995-97.

Probable Starting Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Mike Bibby
Ray Allen vs Joe Johnson
SF: Paul Pierce vs Marvin Williams
PF: Kevin Garnett vs Al Horford
C: Kendrick Perkins vs Zaza Pachulia

Boston Celtics Injuries

Paul Pierce (hand) will play
Rajon Rondo (body) will play

Atlanta Hawks Injuries
Speedy Claxton (knee) out
Josh Smith (ankle) day to day

Key Matchups
Bibby was very vocal about the Celtics fans during the playoffs, calling them bandwagon fans. I am sure they haven't forgotten that so expect him to be booed early and often.

Joe Johnson will try to get the best of his former team. He has been averaging over 25 points per game and it will be up to Ray Allen to try to contain him in this game.

Honorable Mention
Kevin Garnett vs Al Horford
Al Horford's taunting earned the Celtics' Captain a fine when he retaliated with the so called gang sign in the playoffs. Horford went for 27 points and 17 rebounds in last night's game against the Bulls. He is on a roll, but expect KG and Perk to look to send him a message in this game.

Keys to the Game
Fast Start - The Celtics have been getting off to a slow start in the majority of their games and having to dig their way out of a hole. Because the Hawks are playing such good defense, the Celtics need to start strong and not come out sluggish

Bench Play - The Celtics are playing in the 3rd game in 4 nights while the Hawks are playing in the second of back to back games on the road. Both teams will need their benches to contribute as the starters will need some rest.

Limit Turnovers - The Celtics have been too sloppy with the ball, allowing too many turnovers. They need to concentrate on taking care of the ball and limiting their turnovers.

X Factor
Defense - with both teams emerging as top defensive teams in the league, the team that maintains that defensive intensity throughout the game will have the advantage. This could be a very low scoring game.