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Boston Celtics (23-2) at Atlanta Hawks (15-9)
Wednesday, December 17
7:00 PM
Game #26, Road Game #11
TV: ESPN, SportsSouthHD, CSNHD
Phillips Arena

Game Thread l Chat

Hawks Blog: Peachtree Hoops

There is quite a rivalry developing between these two teams. They surprised everyone by taking the Celtics to 7 games in the opening round of the playoffs and almost upset them in the Garden earlier this season. In the playoffs, Mike Bibby became a villain to the Celtics faithful when he called Celtics fans bandwagon jumpers. And there was also some jabbing back and forth between Bibby and Perk. Marvin Williams earned a suspension for the first game of the season for a hard foul on Rondo. And of course, there was Al Horford's taunting of Paul Pierce and Pierce's reaction that got him a big fine. There seems to be no lack of drama when these two teams get together.

In the first matchup between these two teams, the Celtics barely squeaked by the Hawks with a 103-102 win in the Garden but it took Paul Pierce coming out of the booth as Superman and hitting a fallaway jumper with 0.5 seconds left to win the game. The Hawks were playing in the second of back to back games and they were playing without Josh Smith and yet the Celtics barely beat them. The Celtics are going to have to pick up their game in order to beat the Hawks in Atlanta since they struggled there in the playoffs and the matchups between these two teams seem to give the Celtics problems.

The biggest question going into this game is whether Paul Pierce will be able to play. He plans to test the knee at the shoot around before the game and a decision will be made then. The Celtics struggle with the Hawks even with a full roster and so hopefully Pierce will be able to play. Eddie House is expected to re-join the team after missing Monday's game against the Jazz due to the death of his aunt.

The Hawks are playing good basketball and in their last game ended Cleveland's 11 game winning streak. They are hoping to do the same with the Celtics' 15 game win streak. The Hawks are proving they are for real and they are tough to beat in their own building. They are 9-1 at home and the Celtics better not take them for granted.

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

Injuries:

Boston Celtics Paul Pierce (knee) Game time decision
Eddie House (death in family) probable
Atlanta Hawks Speedy Claxton (knee) out

Key Matchups
vs
After a matchup with Chris Paul followed by one with Deron Williams, now, Rondo will face an old foe in Mike Bibby. Bibby was very vocal about the Celtics fans during the playoffs, calling them bandwagon fans. Rondo will need to continue to be aggressive, taking the ball at Bibby every chance he gets.

vs
Joe Johnson would love to take it to his former team. He can put up points in a hurry and Ray Allen will need to work on defense to try to keep Johnson from going off. Johnson had 28 points and 7 assists in their last meeting.

Honorable Mention
Kevin Garnett vs Josh Smith
Smith was out when the Celtics played the Hawks earlier this season. Smith has played very well against the Celtics in the past. He is always a tough matchup for the Celtics.

Team Connections:
Doc Rivers played for the Hawks from '83-'91 and holds the Hawks' record for assists with 3866
Celtics' assistant Armond Hill played for the Hawks '76-80 and '83-'84
Rajon Rondo and Josh Smith were teammates at Oak Hill Academy
Joe Johnson was drafted by the Celtics with the 10th pick in the 2001 draft
Mike Bibby and Eddie House are brothers in law
Rajon Rondo and Randolph Morris were teammates at Kentucky
Al Horford and Big Baby Davis played against each other in the 2006 Final Four
Hawks Assistant Alton Lister played for the Celtics from '95-'97
Mo Evans and KG were teammates in Minnesota

Keys to the Game
Focus - The Celtics have to keep their focus and not get caught up in the hype about their win streak and their record. They have to come out strong and play consistently throughout without a let up. Mental focus was one of their biggest problems in the playoff losses last season. They can't let that happen if they want to win this game.

Take Care of the Ball The Celtics had 23 turnovers vs the Jazz and that is way too many. They have to take better care of the ball and limit their turnovers. The Hawks will make the Celtics pay for turning the ball over in this game.

Defense The Celtics have to play the tough team defense that has gotten them to this point. Their struggles on the road in the playoffs were a result of their failure to play defense on the road. Going back to focus, they have to keep their focus on defending both the paint and the perimeter.

Rondo When Rondo is aggressive, the Celtics are tough to beat. He needs to continue to be aggressive on both ends of the court for the Celtics to be their best.