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Celtics look to get back on track as they host the Hawks

Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks for the 3rd of 4 games this season.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Hawks (15-12) at Boston Celtics (14-12)
Friday, December 18, 2015
7:30 PM ET
Game #27 Home Game #14
TV: CSNNE, FSSE, NBA-LP 757(DTV), ?(Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 92.9 FM The Game
TD Garden

Referees: Sean Wright, Mitchell Ervin, James Williams

The Celtics host the Hawks for the second time in the third of four contests between these two teams. They will meet once more at Philips Arena on 4/9. The 2015-16 series is split 1-1 with each team winning on their home court. The Celtics won the first matchup on 11/13 (106-93) before the Hawks bounced back to win on 11/24 in Atlanta (121-97).

Atlanta has dropped two straight road games in the series, with the most recent victory against Boston at the TD Garden coming on 1/14/15. The Celtics leads the all time series 229-138 and 122-36 at home. Both teams are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 7-6 at home while the Hawks are 6-6 on the road.

Atlanta looks to win consecutive games for just the second time this season since they started out 8-2. On the other hand, the Celtics are trying to avoid dropping three in a row for the first time since the opening week. The Celtics have won 19 of the last 23 at home in this series, including playoffs. The Hawks have dropped six of eight on the road after opening 4-0.

The Hawks come into this game with everyone healthy. They have assigned Walter Tavares to the D-League so he won't be with them for this game. The Celtics are still playing without Marcus Smart who may not be back until the New Year. Jordan Mickey has once again been sent to the Red Claws and will be with them for their game tonight at 7:00 PM ET. The Hawks' Shelvin Mack will be playing against his former college coach in this one.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard

Isaiah Thomas vs Jeff Teague

Shooting Guard

Avery Bradley vs Kyle Korver

Small Forward
Jae Crowder vs Kent Bazemore

Power Forward

Amir Johnson vs Paul Millsap

Jared Sullinger vs Al Horford

Celtics Reserves
Evan Turner
RJ Hunter
Jonas Jerebko
David Lee
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
James Young
Tyler Zeller
Kelly Olynyk

Head Coach

Brad Stevens

Marcus Smart (leg) out

Hawks Reserves
Tiago Splitter
Dennis Schroder
Justin Holiday
Mike Scott
Shelvin Mack
Lamar Patterson
Tim Hardaway Jr
Walter Tavares
Mike Muscala
Thabo Sefolosha

Head Coach
Mike Budenholzer


Key Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs Jeff Teague
Teague is averaging 15.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Teague has given the Celtics problems in the past and Isaiah needs to be able to slow him down. Avery will have his hands full guarding Kyle Korver, who also tends to give the Celtics problems with his scoring. Isaiah is averaging 18.5 points, 6.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals off the bench in the 2 games against the Hawks this year. Now he gets to show what he can do as a starter against them.

Amir Johnson vs Paul Millsap
Millsap is averaging 18.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks a game. He is is averaging 19.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists against the Celtics this season. He is a handful for anyone to have to guard. Amir will need to play well on both ends of the court to try to slow him down.

Honorable Mention

Jared Sullinger vs Al Horford
Horford is averaging 15.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game. Jared needs to crash the boards and play defense on Horford as well as hit his open shots.

Keys to the Game

Play as a Team - The Celtics played very un-Celtic like in their loss to the Pistons. The Celtics had a season low 17 assists and seemed to forget to play together both on offense and defense. They have to get back to moving the ball and finding the open man to get the best shot. They are at their best when they share the ball and work together. Hitting some shots wouldn't hurt either.

Take Care of the Ball - The Hawks are 3rd in the league in steals with 9.4 per game and 1st in points off turnovers with 24.5. The Celtics have to move the ball but also make good passes and not allow the Hawks to get extra points off steals and turnovers. If the Celtics get careless, the Hawks will make them pay.

Rebound - The Celtics can't score if they don't have the ball and so they have to make an extra effort to crash the glass to give themselves second chance points as well as a chance for fast break points. They also have to limit the Hawks from getting extra possessions from rebounds.

- Defense wins games. The Celtics miss the defense of Marcus Smart, but even without him they are capable of playing tough defense. The Hawks have players who can put points up in a hurry and the Celtics have to concentrate on defense to keep them from having big games. The Celtics have got to play tough defense from tip off to final buzzer with no let up.

Run! - The Celtics need to run on every possession. When they run they can get easy points before the Hawks get their defense set. They also have to run back on defense to prevent the Hawks from getting easy baskets. They play best when they push the pace!

Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team in going after loose balls, rebounds, in going to the basket, in moving the ball, and on defense. They have to be the more aggressive team and the team that wants it more.
Inconsistency - Both of these teams have been inconsistent this season. You never know whether they are going to shoot the lights out or build a house out of the bricks they shoot.

Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Will they let them play or will they call every ticky tack foul? Will they call it fair or will they favor one team over the other? One never knows what any given crew will do.

Official Report
Sean Wright

Sean Wright has officiated 594 regular season and 19 playoff games in his 10 seasons. Prior to joining the NBA, Wright was an official in the NBA D-League, where he participated in the Playoffs in 2004 and the Finals game in 2005. Wright’s collegiate officiating experience includes working in the SEC, Colonial, Big South, Southern, Ohio Valley, Atlantic Sun and Southwestern Athletic Conferences.

It was Sean Wright that Rondo threw the ball at resulting in his ejection and suspension in 2012. In one game with Wright last season, Tommy called him an idiot after one particularly bad call. The Celtics are 0-1 this season and 2-8 in their last 10 games with Wright while the Hawks are 2-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 10-8.

Mitchell Ervin

Mitchell Ervin is entering into his first NBA season having officiated 12 regular season games as a non-staff official. Prior to joining the NBA, Ervin officiated in the NBA D-League for 4 years where he officiated in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 NBA D-League Playoffs, including the 2014 and 2015 NBA D-League Finals. Ervin also officiated the 2014 NBA D-League All-Star Game in his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Ervin’s resume includes 8 years of collegiate officiating experience, with 6 of those years in Division I having officiated in the Big 12, Conference USA, Big South, Sun Belt, Southland and Southwestern Athletic Conferences. During his stint in Division I, Ervin was selected to work in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Southland Conference Tournament, as well as the 2015 Sun Belt Conference Tournament in which he officiated in the conference tournament semi-finals. He also has one year and five years of high school officiating experience in New Orleans, Louisiana and Houston, Texas respectively.

Prior to becoming a professional basketball official, Ervin was a middle school physical education teacher, football, basketball and track coach. Ervin graduated with a dual Bachelor of Science degree in Sport Management and Exercise Physiology from the University of New Orleans, where he was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and a walk-on member of the 1997 – 98 Privateer basketball team.

The Celtics are 0-3 over his career (2 games in 2014 as a non staff referee) and the Hawks are 2-1 over his career. His home W/L record this season is 10-5.

James Williams

James Williams enters his sixth NBA season having officiated 278 regular season games and 3 playoff games. Williams owns 10 years of experience in the collegiate ranks, having officiated for the NCAA from 2001-2010. He also officiated two seasons in the WNBA, and has worked two NBA D-League Finals as well as the 2010 NBA D-League All-Star Game.

There hasn't been a lot of controversy with James Williams as a referee. None of his games stand out as terribly bad as with some refs. Williams called the game against Miami earlier this season and for the most part they let them play. However, he made a head scratching call against the Celtics. With just over a minute left, he called a foul on Amir Johnson, when Johnson and Bosh were both scrambling for the ball and Bosh landed on Amir. That gave Miami possession in a close game. Other than that, he's been decent in the games he has called for the Celtics. The Celtics are 1-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games with Williams while the Hawks are 3-1 this season and 7-3 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 8-10.

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