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Possible First Round Preview in Atlanta



Boston Celtics (63-16) at Atlanta Hawks (37-42)

Saturday, April 12
Game #80,  Away Game #40
TV:  NBA LP ch 752, CSNHD, FSN South
Philips Arena 
Chat   l   Game Thread   

Hawks Coverage:   Impending Firestorm       

The Celtics are looking for their 64th win and to send the Hawks a message in this game.  The Hawks are the Celtics likely first round opponents in the playoffs. The Hawks are only 2 games up on the Pacers for the 8th playoff spot and need to win this game to guarantee their spot and so they will be trying to send a message of their own.    They will be playing hard and will give it their best shot since they are playing to stay in the playoffs.   The Celtics need to match their intensity even though they have nothing at stake other than pride.   

Both teams are playing in the second of back to back games and both teams will be travelling to get to this game.    Atlanta beat the Knicks in New York but their starters all played big minutes with Bibby and Johnson playing 43 minutes each, Mo Williams playing 40 minutes and Josh Smith playing 39 minutes.  The Celtics easily beat the Bucks with no starter playing more than 24 minutes.  

Atlanta is 25-14 at home so play tough in their own building.  The Celtics are 29-10 on the road.   The Celtics need to win this game to send a message that they are the better team and to keep Atlanta from getting any mental edge going into the playoffs.  Scott Pollard will be doing the color commentary with Mike Gorman for this game so that should make it interesting to say the least. 

Probable Starting Matchups
PG:   Rajon Rondo  vs  Mike Bibby
SG:    Ray Allen vs Joe Johnson
SF:    Paul Pierce vs Mo Williams
PF:    Kevin Garnett vs Josh Smith
C:      Kendrick Perkins vs Al Horford 
Key Matchups
Kevin Garnett   6'11", PPG 19.0 RPG 9.40 APG 3.5 EFF + 25.12
Josh Smith      6'9", PPG 17.2 RPG 8.30 APG 3.4 EFF + 20.86 KG has the height advantage and the experience advantage but Josh Smith is quicker  and younger and very athletic.  Smith always plays well against the Celtics and KG will have to figure a way to slow him down while making him work on the defensive end as well. 
Rajon Rondo     6'1"  PPG 10.4 RPG 4.10 APG 5.0 EFF + 13.91
Mike Bibby   6'1"    PPG 13.7 RPG 3.20 APG 6.1 EFF + 13.95 
This matchup will be key to the playoff series between these two teams.    Neither has a size advantage but Rondo had a significant speed advantage.  Bibby has the experience advantage.  It will be up to Rondo to defend Bibby and keep him from getting the Hawks into their sets as long as possible. 

Honorable Mention
Ray Allen    PPG 17.8 RPG 3.70 APG 3.1 EFF + 16.07 
Joe Johnson    PPG 21.9 RPG 4.60 APG 5.8 EFF + 19.51
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.  This is a tough matchup for the Celtics.   
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.   The Hawks have out-scored opponents in 2nd chance points in 12 of their last 15 games.  The Celtics  need to be aggressive on the boards to limit the Hawks'  second chance points in this game.  The Hawks have either out-rebounded or tied in rebounds in 9 of their last 10 games and the Celtics will need to be aggressive on the boards in this game. 

Defense   The Celtics need to play tough defense and get their defensive focus back as they are building toward the playoffs. They especially need to guard the perimeter as the Hawks are shooting 40% from beyond the arc in their last 28 games since acquiring Mike Bibby.   In their last meeting, when the Celtics picked up their defense, the Hawks became flustered and the Celtics were able to pull away.  Hopefully they can do the same in this game.   

Limit Turnovers  The Celtics have to cut down their turnovers.  They are 5th in the league in turnovers and have got to take better care of the ball because teams in the playoffs will take advantage of each and every one.  They did a little better against the Bucks with 13 but they still need to do better. 
Motivation  The Hawks will be motivated to make the playoffs and will be playing hard to try to get a win here.  For them this is a must win game.  The Celtics have first place all wrapped up.  Then need to find motivation in knowing that they may face the Hawks in the first round and don't want to give them any mental edge going in. 

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