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Hawks Look to Even the Score with the Celtics

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Atlanta Hawks (24-32) at Boston Celtics (45-12)
Sunday, March 2
6:00 PM  ET
Game #58, Home Game #30
TV:  NBA LP ch 751, CSNHD, SportsSouth
Radio:  WEEI
Chat   l  Game Thread     

Hawks Coverage     Impending Firestorm   l  Hawks Locker        

This is the second of 3 games between these two teams this season.  The Celtics won the first game at home, 106-83  on November 9.   Since that time, the Hawks traded for Mike Bibby which gives them a different look from the last time we played them.  They are 7-21 on the road and 3-7 in their last 10 games but they have won 3 of their last 4 games since the trade.  The Celtics have won 4 games in a row and 7 in a row at home.  PJ Brown may see his first action as a Celtic in this game. 
This has the makings of the classic trap game.   The Celtics have to be careful not to overlook the Hawks with the big game against the Pistons coming up on Wednesday.    Atlanta has some very talented players and with Mike Bibby running the show, they can be a dangerous team.  The Celtics can't take any teams for granted because every team they face this season is going to pull out all stops to try to beat them.  Since the Celtics blew out the Hawks in their first meeting, they will be looking for payback in this game.  The Hawks are also fighting to make the playoffs and every game is big for them.  
There are several ties between these two teams, the most notable is the fact that Doc Rivers played for Atlanta's Air Force from 1983-1991.  He is still the Hawks' all time leader in assists.   Joe Johnson was drafted by the Celtics and played 48 games for them before being traded to the Suns.  Celtics assistant Armond Hill played for the Hawks for 6 seasons and served as an assistant coach for the Hawks for one season.  Scott Pollard was on the Hawks roster for 2 games in 1999 before being cut.  Mike Bibby is Eddie House's brother in law.  

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    
Key Matchups 
Kevin Garnett   6'11", PPG 18.4 RPG 9.70 APG 3.7 EFF + 25.31
Josh Smith      6'9", PPG 17.5 RPG 8.00 APG 3.7 EFF + 20.91 KG has the height advantage and the experience advantage but Josh Smith is quicker than KG and is a very good defender.  Smith is among the league leaders in steals and blocks.  Smith typically has a good game against the Celtics.  KG is close to 100% again and should get the better of this matchup but Smith is going to play him well.
Rajon Rondo     6'1"  PPG 10.6 RPG 4.40 APG 5.0 EFF + 14.58
Mike Bibby   6'1"    PPG 13.5 RPG 3.50 APG 5.6 EFF + 13.50
Once again Rondo has to match up with a veteran point guard in Mike Bibby.  Neither has a size advantage but Rondo had a significant speed advantage.  I expect Rondo to pick up where he left off in the last game and control the tempo and the game and get the best of the PG matchup. 
Honorable Mention
Ray Allen   PPG 18.8 RPG 4.00 APG 3.1 EFF + 16.64
Joe Johnson    PPG 20.5 RPG 4.50 APG 5.3 EFF + 17.32
Joe Johnson is younger and quicker than Ray Allen and has a height advantage. JJ is a good defender and so Ray will have to work to get his shots in this game.  With the addition of Bibby,  Johnson no longer has to do the majority of ball handling and this frees him up to be more of a scorer.  He has been on fire from beyond the arc since the trade.  Ray Allen has been shooting the ball well in his last 4 games and this should be a good matchup between two scorers. 
Keys to the Game
Be Aggressive  The Celtics need to be the aggressor, taking the ball to the hoop, hustling for loose balls, and crashing the boards.  They need to come out strong and play aggressively all game.  They need to be aggressive on the boards to prevent second chance points for the Hawks.  Since Smith is so good at blocking shots, they need to finish strong at the hoop as well.  They can't afford to play tentatively on offense or on defense.  
Defense   The Celtics must play tough defense from start to finish.  Even though they have a very good offense, the game will be won on the defensive end.  The Hawks also have some good offensive players in Bibby, Smith, Johnson, Williams and Childress (who always seems to have career games against the Celtics) and so the Celtics need to concentrate on good team defense if they want to win the game.  The Hawks have players who can hit the 3 as well as players who can take it inside so defending both in the paint and on the perimeter are both important.  
Ball Movement  The Celtics have been moving the ball well and need to continue to do so to find the open man.  If they move the ball and move without the ball to get open, the offense is very strong.  When they go with ISO's, they are a much weaker team. 
Home Court   The Celtics will have the home crowd behind them and they need to feed off their energy and use it to motivate them to play with energy from start to finish.