Sunday, April 20
8:30 PM ET
TD BankNorth Garden
Here it is, ladies and gentleman. After three years of agonizing absence, the Boston Celtics are finally back in the NBA Playoffs; this time, with a new attitude. In 2005, the last time the C’s were in the playoffs, you didn’t expect that team to make a whole lot of noise. The first round knockout was rough, especially considering the fact that they were blown out on their home floor in Game 7, but at the end of the day everybody knew that a second round appearance was that team’s ceiling. This year, of course, it is much different. The Celtics are surrounded by a world of expectations, and for good reason. Their 66-16 regular season record ranks third in this franchise’s illustrious history, and the fan base is finally thinking championship again.
Sixty-six wins and 16 losses is certainly an impressive accomplishment, but this is a new season. When the postseason begins, every team goes in with the same 0-0 record. The regular season feat that the Celtics put together is remarkable, and it is the reason why they’ve locked up homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, but this is where the "real season" begins. There are questions to be answered, runs to be made, and dreams to be both met and broken.
Boston’s first round matchup is the young and athletic Atlanta Hawks, who just squeezed into the Eastern Conference playoffs with a sub-par 37-45 regular season record. Their roster is made up of gifted offensive players, athletic freaks, and energy guys. That type of formula has given the Celtics a bit of trouble throughout the regular season, and Atlanta certainly is not a team that will back down from the challenge. Mike Woodson’s up-and-coming club will give the Celtics some hard-fought battles, win or lose.
With that said, the C’s will show no mercy. It’s time to make a statement, and above all a title run. This is just the beginning of what could be a special season with a special ending, so let’s make sure we all soak it in and enjoy each and every minute of it.
As for the fans who will be attending tonight’s game at the Garden, it's time to show Atlanta what "The Jungle" is all about. I’ll leave you with this message from Kevin Garnett: "keep this mutha rockin."
C Al Horford / Kendrick Perkins
PF Josh Smith / Kevin Garnett
SF Marvin Williams / Paul Pierce
SG Joe Johnson / Ray Allen
PG Mike Bibby / Rajon Rondo
Key Matchup: Mike Bibby vs. Rajon Rondo
Doc Rivers believes that the key matchup in this first round series is Rajon Rondo versus Mike Bibby, and it’s tough to disagree. Rondo holds the physical advantages and could really attack Bibby off penetration if his mindset is in the right place, while Bibby is able to create his own shot himself and has a great deal of experience on Rondo. Rondo’s play on each end of the court is key for the Celtics throughout this series. Will Rondo come in with the mentality to attack? Will Rondo knock down the mid-range jumpers the defense gives him? Will Rondo cut off Bibby when he looks to make a move with the ball, and will he contest his perimeter jumpers? We all know what Rondo is capable of, and we know that he very well can do all of those things, but this is the NBA playoffs. He has never been a part of them, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can live up to the challenge right away.
Celtics X-Factor: Ball Control
In the regular season, the Celtics can turn the ball over 16-20 times in a game and still come out on top. In the playoffs, especially if they go deep, ball control will virtually make or break you against a competitive, hungry opponent. The Celtics cannot turn the ball over in the playoffs, especially in the postseason opener against a very athletic team that can do damage in transition.
ATL – Speedy Claxton (left knee – out for season)
BOS – Scot Pollard (torn tendon in left ankle – out for season)
Celtics Keys to the Game
- Ball Control
- Contain Atlanta’s Offensive Glass
- 48-Minute Energy