Boston Celtics (8-1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (6-2)
Friday, November 13, 2009
TV: Comcast SportsNet, ESPN; Radio: 850 AM WEEI
Venue: TD Garden
The Boston Celtics aim for nine wins in their first ten games when the Atlanta Hawks visit the TD Garden at 8:00pm tonight.
The Celtics are coming off an impressive win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday in which the team totaled 30 assists and seven players scored in double figures, led by Kevin Garnett who tallied 18. Meanwhile, the Hawks roll into Boston on a two-game win streak, fresh off a 114-101 thumping of the New York Knicks on Wednesday. Six Hawks scored in double figures, including Josh Smith (22) and Al Horford (25), who each scored more than 20 points.
Atlanta is currently fourth in the league in scoring at 107.75 points per game, but is also allowing 102 points per game, which suggests defense is not the Hawks' first priority. Boston is allowing a league-best 84.55 points per game, so it will be interesting to see if the Celtics' defense will be able to contain what has developed into a very prolific Hawks' offense. The last time the Celtics met an opponent that averaged over 100 points per game was a week ago against the Phoenix Suns. The Celtics got caught up in Phoenix's style of play and ended up allowing 110 points before losing their first game of the season by seven.
The Hawks still feature the strong core of players that helped take the Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals two seasons ago. However, Atlanta added veteran scoring machine Jamal Crawford and steady inside man Joe Smith to help bolster its depth and they present new dimensions to an already potent Atlanta squad.
Based on Atlanta's starting lineups in their first eight games, it would seem Kevin Garnett will be matched up with Josh Smith, which doesn't necessarily bode well for Garnett. Smith's athleticism, quickness, and versatility on the perimeter could give him an advantage over Garnett, especially if he initiates his own offense outside of the paint.
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins
Hawks: Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford
Health Check: For the Celtics, forward Glen Davis (thumb) and guard Tony Allen (ankle) are out and forward Brian Scalabrine (back) is listed as day-to-day.
For the Hawks, center Jason Collins (ankle) is listed as day-to-day.
Keep It In Mind: The Hawks have been outrebounded in both of their losses this season.
Who's Hot: For the Celtics, seven players scored in double figures against the Jazz on Wednesday.
For the Hawks, Al Horford shot 9-16 en route to 25 points against the Knicks on Wednesday.
Who's Not: For the Celtics, Eddie House has shot a mere 2-10 the past two games for a total of five points.
For the Hawks, Marvin Williams was just 2-7 for four points against the Knicks on Wednesday.
Key Matchup: Ray Allen vs. Joe Johnson
Honorable Mention: Kevin Garnett vs. Josh Smith
Skinny: Winning the rebounding battle appears to be one of the keys for Boston tonight, as Atlanta has recorded less rebounds than its opponent in both of its losses this season. The Hawks are a very athletic team and move fast, which could pose formidable problems for the Celtics. Boston's defense will have to be sound early on in hopes of slowing the Hawks' offense in the opening quarter.
Don't count out Atlanta's bench, as the Hawks are now capable of going eight or nine deep with the additions of Crawford and Smith, along with Maurive Evans, Zaza Pachulia and even Jeff Teague backing up the starters.