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Celtics Look to Close Out Series Tonight in Atlanta

Boston Celtics (3-2) at Atlanta Hawks (2-3) 
Friday, May 2
8:00 PM ET
Round 1, Game #6, Away Game #3
Philips Arena 
Chat   l   Game Thread   

Hawks Blogs:      Hawks Basketblog    l   Impending Firestorm   l  Hawks Locker   l  Atlanta Hawks Blog

After losing games 3 and 4 in Atlanta, the Celtics seemed in disarray but their return to the Garden for game 5 got them  back on track with a 25 point blowout. .  Now, the Celtics are back in  Atlanta and will  try to close out the series in game 6. 
In games 3 and 4 the Celtics seemed to forget how to play defense and were out played by the young Hawks.   It is possible after blowouts in games 1 and 2, the Celtics took the Hawks for granted and were caught by surprise when they fought back. It took going home for them to get back to basics and playing like the team that won 66 games in the regular season. 
The Hawks are not going to go away quietly and their wins in games 3 and 4 have given them confidence and they believe that they can win this series.  The Celtics would do well not to underestimate them again.   The Celtics were the best road team in the league in the regular season with a 31-10 record. The Hawks were a good home team with a 25-16 home record.  The Celtics know how to win big games on the road as they have all season and should close out this series with a win tonight.
  To win this game the Celtics need to keep their focus and play the kind of defense that made them the top defensive team in the league this season.    With the Cavs expected to close out their series  with the Wizards tonight, it would be very wise for the Celtics to end it here. 

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 
Sixth Man
James Posey vs Josh Childress 
Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo  vs  Mike Bibby 
Rondo outplayed Bibby once again in game 5 in Boston.  It remains to be seen if he can do it again in Atlanta.    Rondo's ability to throw Bibby off his game is key to every other area of this game. 

Kevin Garnett  vs  Josh Smith
KG got back to his dominant defense in game 5 and will need to do the same in game 6 for the Celtics to win.  He will need to make Smith work on the defensive end while bothering his every shot on the offensive end. 

Honorable Mention
Ray Allen vs Joe Johnson
When the Celtics play team defense and they help Ray on Joe, we have seen that they can effectively shut him down.  They are going to have to play that kind of team defense in game 6 as Ray can't guard him one on one.  Shutting Johnson down is key to a game 6 win.

Keys to the Game
Rebounding  When the Celtics out rebound the Hawks they win and when they don't, they lose.   Much of rebounding is effort and desire and when both of those are there, they get the rebounds and they out play the Hawks

Defense   The Celtics can't try to outscore the Hawks because they found out in games 3 and 4 that doesn't work.  They have to play the tough defense that they played in games 1,2 and 5 in order to win.  No defense = no win. 

Be Aggressive  The Celtics need to continue to be aggressive in taking the ball to the basket and in diving for loose balls and crashing the boards.   By being more aggressive and driving to the hoop rather than settling for quick jumpers, they will either get a high percentage shot or draw the foul and getting the Hawks into foul trouble pays dividends because they have a limited bench.  Paul Pierce in particular must be more aggressive looking for his shot and taking the ball to the basket. 
Play 48 Minutes  In games 3 and 4, the Celtics got out to a big lead and then let the Hawks climb back into it.  They started the fourth quarter with a 10 point lead and they allowed the Hawks to outscore them 32-17 in the final quarter for the win.  The Celtics must play hard for all 48 minutes of the game and not let up, even if they get a  big lead because this Hawks team will not stop coming at them.   

Bench Play
The Celtics bench has come through in a big way in their three wins and was a non factor in the two losses.  The Celtics will need their bench to produce in this game if they want to end the series here. 

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