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Hawks Fly in Desperate for Payback

Atlanta Hawks (43-32) at Boston Celtics (57-19)
Friday, April 3
7:30 PM
Game #77, Home Game #38
TV: NBA-LP 753, SportsSouthHD, CSNHD
TD Banknorth Garden

Game Thread l Chat
This is the 4th and final regular season meeting between these two teams. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Hawks are deserate to beat the Celtics in this game as it probably will be their last time to do so this season. They are still smarting from the beating the Celtics gave them in the opening round of last year's playoffs as well as the 3 losses this season. They have a lot to pay the Celtics back for and they are going to be fired up to do it tonight. The only way these two teams will meet again this season after this game is if both teams make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics are up 3-0 on the Hawks for the season, but they won the 3 games by a combined total of only 10 points. They won the first game in Boston 103-102 on a last second jumper from Paul Pierce. The 2nd game, The Celtics won in Atlanta 88-85 and in the 3rd contest, without KG, the Celtics won once again in Atlanta 99-93. The Hawks will be playing for pride and to avoid a sweep in this one, so the Celtics better be ready.

The Hawks are not a great road team with just a 14-23 record away from Phillips Arena and they would love to improve their road play with the upcoming playoffs in mind. The Celtics are one of the best home teams with a 31-6 record at the Garden. They will need to come out with more intensity than they did in the Bobcats game because the Hawks will be ready to play right from the tip. .

The Hawks take good care of the ball with just 12.9 turnovers per game, which is 6th in the league. Turnovers have been the Celtics' Achilles heel this entire season and if the Celtics turn the ball over, the Hawks are very capable of turning them into points.

The Celtics are 1 game ahead of Orlando for the second seed going into this game. With Orlando hosting Cleveland, there is a good chance that the Celtics could move up 2 games ahead of the Magic for 2nd seed with a win in this game. With the Cavs showing some vulnerability in a loss to the Wizards and the Lakers also slumping somewhat, overtaking either team is not impossible either.

Rondo may not see this as a rivalry, but the Hawks sure view the Celtics as their rivals and will give it all they've got to pay them back for two seasons of futility on their part. Let's hope the Celtics match their intensity from the tip to the final buzzer.

Probable Starters
PG Rajon Rondo 11.8 RPG 5.20 APG 8.5

SG Ray Allen PPG 18.4 RPG 3.50 APG 2.7

SF Paul Pierce PPG 20.3 RPG 5.80 APG 3.7

PF Glen Davis PPG 6.2 RPG 3.80 APG 0.9

C Kendrick Perkins Perkins PPG 8.5 RPG 8.10 BPG 1.9

Brian Scalabrine (head) out
Leon Powe (knee) out
Kevin Garnett (knee) out

Probable Starters
PG Mike Bibby PPG 14.9 RPG 3.60 APG 5.0

SG Joe Johnson PPG 21.7 RPG 4.40 APG 5.9

SF Mo Evans PPG 6.9 RPG 2.90 APG 0.7

PF Josh Smith PPG 15.0 RPG 7.20 APG 2.5

C Al Horford PPG 11.5 RPG 9.20 APG 2.6

Speedy Claxton (knee) out
Marvin Williams (back) out
Acie Law (back) day to day

Key Matchups
Rondo once again will go up against Mike Bibby. Bibby was very vocal about the Celtics fans during the playoffs, calling them bandwagon fans. In past matchups, Rondo has clearly out-played Bibby and hopefully that trend will continue in this one. Bibby can be dangerous from beyond the arc so Rondo will need to stay with him on defense as well.

Joe Johnson loves to take it to his former team. Johnson is averaging 23.3 points against the Celtics this season and Ray will need to work on defense to keep Johnson from taking over the game. Ray was the hero in the Bobcats' game hitting huge 3 pointers down the stretch after struggling in the first half. Hopefully Ray will pick up where he left off in that game and make Johnson work on defense as well.

Honorable Mention
Kendrick Perkins vs Al Horford
This will be a physical battle between these two big men. Perk has been strong on defense and with KG still out, Perk will need to continue his strong defense in this game. We could also use some offense in the post from Perk to keep the defenses from doubling off of him.

Team Connections:
Doc Rivers played for the Hawks from '83-'91 and holds the Hawks' record for assists with 3866
Celtics' assistant Armond Hill played for the Hawks '76-80 and '83-'84
Rajon Rondo and Josh Smith were teammates at Oak Hill Academy
Joe Johnson was drafted by the Celtics with the 10th pick in the 2001 draft
Mike Bibby and Eddie House are brothers in law
Rajon Rondo and Randolph Morris were teammates at Kentucky
Al Horford and Big Baby Davis played against each other in the 2006 Final Four
Hawks Assistant Alton Lister played for the Celtics from '95-'97
Mo Evans and KG were teammates in Minnesota
Celtics' patriarch, Red Auerbach was the 2nd head coach in Hawks history, coaching the TriCities BlackHawks tp a 28-29 record in the 1949-50 season.

Home Court
The Hawks aren't a great road team. The Celtics need to use home court to their advantage and come out with intensity and tough defense to keep the Hawks off balance and to set the pace of the game. Doc continues to insist that they aren't concerned with the second seed but a win in this game would be a good chance to advance their chances for home court advantage in the 2nd round of the playoffs.

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