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Celtics Try for Revenge, Redemption, and Respect Against Hawks

Boston Celtics (29-14) @ Atlanta Hawks (29-15)
Friday, January 29th, 7:30 PM EST
Phillips Arena
CSN-NE, Sportsouth, NBATV, WEEI
The Line: Road game 24 (16-7), 2nd out of 4 games 5 nights stretch, 0-3 vs Hawks in 09-10


The Celtics are hurting, pure and simple. They have not beaten a viable contender since they faced Orlando on Christmas day. They’d only just started squeaking out wins with Kevin Garnett back, they’d only just won their first game against a decent opponent in 2010 against Portland, they’d only just started playing team defense...then lo and behold they dropped a 16 point lead against the Magic. Last night.

Fortunately, neither we as fans nor they as players can dwell on that loss too much right now, because tonight there is another game. A whole other situation to try and prove that the Boston Celtics are still a force to be reckoned with. And boy, is it a doozy.

If one were to take a gander at the standings right now in the East, one would see a very defined picture about the supposed power structure. On the bottom of the playoff picture is Chicago, Charlotte, Miami, and Toronto. On the very top is Cleveland. Roughly five games behind Cleveland though, there is a brawl for separation. Orlando, Boston, Atlanta, all within a half game of each other. Each loss from now til the end of the season could be the loss that means you start off a playoff series on the road. Each win could be the W that ensures you play game seven against a supportive and bloodthirsty home crowd. As the season trudges on, big picture things are coming out of the wood work.

Atlanta sees this too, and when the Hawks look at the Celtics, they see a predator sure, but a wounded one. In every single contest this season against the Hawks, the Celtics have lead at halftime. In every game against the Hawks this year, that lead has been overcome by the end of the third quarter.

The Celtics are going to make the playoffs, that much is certain. The question is how will they be walking into that first series? Will they slink in, with low shoulders and an attitude that is both at once timid and aloof, or will they charge in with a purpose and unity we haven’t really seen since 2008? The Celtics need to start making statements. They need to start making promises, and issuing I-O-U’s for butt kickings come May. Right now they’re just showing up, and on top of that they usually don’t show up after the half. If the Celtics want to have a glimmer of hope in the players, they need to make teams scared of them again. That however, is something no amount of trash talking or tech-earning scowls can do. That’s something that requires wins. Lets see if we get one tonight.

Probable Starters

Boston Celtics

.

POSITION NAME MIN PTS REBS AST STL BLK

.

PG Rajon Rondo 36.7 14.1 4.3 9.6 2.48 0.14

.

SG Ray Allen 36.6 16 3.3 2.9 0.86 0.3

.

SF Paul Pierce 35.9 18.7 4.8 3.6 1.24 0.42

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PF Kevin Garnett 30.8 14.7 7.3 2.5 0.94 0.88

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C Kendrick Perkins 29.1 11.9 8.3 1.1 0.33 2.07

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6 Rasheed Wallace 24 10.5 4.5 1 1.25 0.85

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7 Eddie House 16.8 7.1 1.3 1 0.57 0.14

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8 Tony Allen 18.7 6.9 3 1.8 1.32 0.23

.

9 Glen Davis 16.7 5.6 4 0.5 0.47 0.27

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10 Brian Scalabrine 10.1 1.8 0.9 0.6 0.26 0.09

Injuries and Stuff: Marquis Daniels (OUT), JR Giddens (D-League)

Atlanta Hawks

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POSITION NAME MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK

.

PG Mike Bibby 27.6 9 2.1 4.4 0.86 0.02

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SG Joe Johnson 37.5 21.3 4.8 4.8 1.09 0.05

.

SF Marvin Williams 29.9 10.5 5 1.1 0.77 0.72

.

PF Josh Smith 33.4 15.1 8.5 3.9 1.5 2.16

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C Al Horford 34.3 13.6 9.8 2.2 0.7 1.3

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6 Jamal Crawford 30.5 17.4 2.4 2.8 0.77 0.16

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7 Maurice Evans 15.3 5.1 1.9 0.7 0.47 0.16

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8 Zaza Pachulia 14.1 4.7 3.4 0.4 0.43 0.43

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9 Jeff Teague 10.2 3.2 1 1.8 0.58 0.18

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10 Joe Smith 9 2.8 2.8 0.3 0.03 0.3

Injuries and stuff: None

Match-up of the night: Kevin Garnett V Josh Smith

Well, while Garnett's biggest enemy on the Hawks would be Zaza Pachulia, he faces no easy task tonight with Josh Smith. Smith is high flying, high energy, and unpredictable, which are all things Kevin Garnett is not. Garnett can't hope to out-athletic Smith, so he will be working every single possession off of every loose ball, every lost rebound, to make sure Smith isn't tearing the C's up in transition. Meanwhile, Smith is going to have to deal with a fundamentally sound curmudgeonly old man in Kevin Garnett. Two completely different players...so different in fact that it just screams sitcom.

Other Noteable Matchups:

Rajon Rondo V Mike "You can hate me now" Bibby- Rondo has got to keep Bibby from getting comfortable this game. Over the course of this season Bibby is shooting 60% from deep. He's averaging about 12 ppg, which is 3 higher than his average this season. On the other side of things, Rondo is quicker faster stronger and more athletic than Bibby. There is no reason in the world why Bibby should score more points.

Tony "Two-Step" Allen V Jamal "Don't call me Joey" Crawford- Tony Allen might not get any consideration for sixth-man of the year, but he can prove his worth in gold tonight if he keeps Jamal Crawford off his rhythm. This is a very very important match-up.

Keys to the game for the good guys:

1: Come out of halftime ready to play- I don't want to talk about this further, but it's an issue we all know too well.

2: Clean the glass like it's your job. - This is mostly directed at KG, Perkins, and Rasheed, but yes...clean the glass like it's you job..because it is. The Hawks are going to be like 12 yr olds on pogo sticks going for those boards, so it's going to take veteran saavy and prep work to get position to get those boards.

3: Short term memory loss, long term memory retention- KG and Rondo especially are prone to mental lapses when they get down on themselves, but this goes for the entire team. It must be frustrating as a player to drop a game against a conference rival after being up 16 points at the half (I know it was pretty frustrating as a fan), but they gotta let it go, at least for tonight. This game against the Hawks is simply too big to wallow in self pity for even one play. However, motivation should not be a factor either. The Hawks are 3-0 against team green this season, and there is a high likelihood that they'll see us in the playoffs. You don't want the Hawks remembering that they won 3 games against the Celtics...you want them remembering the vicious beat-down they received at home on Jan 29th.

Bill Walker Watch: 6 games, 6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 Life Shattering Earth changing dunks
Probability of significant playing time: 5%

-Question: What do you call the guy at the end of the bench that is super excited to play if he'll only get his chance, but honestly he probably won't and he knows it? Answer: A Bill Walker.