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Celtics host Hawks in a possible first round playoff preview

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The Celtics end the unofficial first half of the season by hosting the league leading Atlanta Hawks in what could be a first round playoffs preview.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports



at
Atlanta Hawks (43-10) at Boston Celtics (19-31)
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
7:30 PM ET
Game #51 Home Game #27
TV: CSNNE, SportsSouth, NBA-LP 753(DTV), 752(Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 92.9 FM
TD Garden

Referees: Ken Mauer, Eric Lewis, Tre Maddox

The Celtics end the unofficial first half of the season by hosting the league leading Atlanta Hawks. With the Hawks in first place in the East 7.5 games ahead of the Raptors and the Celtics just 2.5 games out of the 8th seed, this could be a preview of a first round playoffs matchup.

This is the 3rd and final meeting between these two teams, unless they meet in the playoffs, that is. The Hawks are up 2-0 in the series, winning 109-105 in Atlanta and 105-91 in Boston. The Hawks rested both Horford and Korver in their last meeting. This will be a tough game for the Celtics to win given how well Atlanta has been playing. They have won 20 of their last 22 games, going undefeated in January.

The Hawks are 6th in the league in scoring at 103.7 points per game. They also are 5th in defense, holding opponents to 97.0 points per game. They have won their last 13 games against Eastern Conference teams and have won their last 7 games on the road. The Celtics would have to do everything right and the Hawks would have to slip up for the Celtics to get a win in this one.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard

vs
Marcus Smart vs Jeff Teague

Shooting Guard
vs
Avery Bradley vs Kyle Korver

Small Forward
vs
Evan Turner vs DeMarre Carroll

Power Forward
vs
Brandon Bass vs Paul Millsap

Center
vs
Jared Sullinger vs Al Horford



Celtics Reserves
Tyler Zeller
Gerald Wallace
Jae Crowder
Marcus Thornton
Tayshaun Prince
James Young
Phil Pressey
Andre Dawkins

Injuries
Kelly Olynyk (ankle) out
Shavlik Randolph (hamstring) out

Head Coach
Brad Stevens


Hawks Reserves
Elton Brand
Shelvin Mack
Dennis Shroder
Kent Bazemore
Mike Scott
Mike Muscala
Pero Antic
John Jenkins

Injuries
Thabo Sefolosha (calf) out

Head Coach

Mike Budenholzer



Key Matchups

vs
Marcus Smart vs Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague is playing very well, averaging 17.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game and has the Hawks offense running very smoothly. If Smart can play tough defense and disrupt Teague as much as he can to keep him from getting into the offense quickly, it may give the Celtics a chance to win this game.

vs
Brandon Bass vs Paul Millsap
Milsap is a handful for anyone to have to play against. He is averaging 17.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Bass will have to play well on both ends of the court.

Keys to the Game
Play 48 Minutes
- The Celtics have periods where they play great and then they have stretches when they can't hit a shot and can't defend and turn the ball over on every possession. They have to be consistent from start to finish, especially down the final stretch of the game. The Hawks are one of the best 4th quarter teams in the league, averaging 26.0 points. If the Celtics let up, the Hawks will make them pay.

Defense - The Hawks shoot a lot of 3 pointers. They are 9th in the league attempting 25.3 three pointers a game and they are 4th in the league, making 9.9 threes per game. They have several good shooters from distance, especially Kyle Korver who leads the league in 3 point percentage at 52.4%. The Celtics must up their perimeter defense if they expect to hang with the Hawks. They also have to defend the paint better with Millsap and Horford and Teague all very good at attacking the basket.

Rebound
- The Celtics must crash the boards as a team, especially the guards. Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics must be the team that wants the win more and they must win the rebounding battle.

Set the Pace - The Celtics have to run on every possession. The Celtics have built leads in games by pushing the ball and getting easy shots before the defenses set up. Part of the reason they have given up those leads is that they stop running, stop pushing the ball inside, and stop moving the ball. They have to keep up the pace for the entire game.

Be Aggressive
- The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team in going after loose balls, in rebounding, and in defending. They have to be aggressive in taking the ball inside and not settling for outside shots, especially when those shots aren't falling. The Celtics have to be more aggressive throughout the game.

X-Factors
Miracles

The Hawks could be looking forward to the All Star break and overlook playing the Celtics. The Celtics could play that perfect came where everything goes well. Otherwise, the Hawks have been playing so well that this will be a tough one for the Celtics to win.

Official Report

Ken Mauer

Ken Mauer has officiated 1,666 regular season, 150 playoff, and 14 Finals games during his 28-season career. He was also a member of the crew that officiated the 1993 Europe Tour in London and the 2005 All-Star Game in Denver. Mauer’s resume includes six years of CBA officiating experience, nine years of collegiate officiating experience and 12 years of high school officiating experience in Minnesota. After spending most of his life in Minnesota, Mauer has settled in Ft. Myers, Fla. where he can still watch his cousin, Joe Mauer, with the Twins in spring training. Mauer was a three sport athlete in college at Minnesota where, in 1977, he recieved All Big 10 baseball honors. Mauer regularly supports the Salvation Army, as well as other organizations. He is often a guest speaker at basketball camps and clinics, church groups and officiating groups.

Mauer is very quick to call technicals and in one game, once ejected Doc Rivers less than 3 minutes into a game, and that was before the new "Respect the Game" rules. In one Timberwolves game he might have set the record by calling 5 technicals in a 10 second span. The Celtics have to be on their best behavior with Mauer calling the game.

Mauer was one of the refs charged with tax evasion and obstructing federal tax laws for receiving substantial taxable income from 1989 through 1994 and failing to declare it. He was one of the refs in the controversial Miami/Dallas Finals where the foul calls were totally lopsided, giving the Heat the title. In a Suns/OKC game two seasons ago, Mauer told Zabian Dowdell not to be a bitch about the calls. Dowdell asked him if he'd say that off the court and Mauer ejected him from the game for it.

The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Mauer officiating. In the 2012 ECF Game 2 vs the Heat, the Heat shot 47 free throws to 29 for the Celtics. He failed to call a foul on Wade for hitting Rondo in the head on a layup even though he was in position to see it clearly. He also failed to call a foul on Wade for kicking KG who was going up for a layup when he was again the ref in position to do so. He called a questionable clear path foul on Pietrus. Pierce fouled out on a very questionable call, joining Pietrus and Dooling with 6 fouls. LeBron James took 24 free throws himself.

In a win last season vs the Raptors, the Celtics shot 35 free throws to 19 for the Raptors and the calls seemed to favor the Celtics. In 3 other games with Mauer last season, they let them play and the officiating was even. It's hard to tell which Mauer will show up, the one that lets them play and is fair or the one that tries to micromanage the game and make it about himself. The Hawks are 2-0 this season and 5-5 in the last 10 games with Mauer. He is a veteran official that isn't usually swayed by the home crowd. His home W/L record this season is 18-21.

Eric Lewis
Lewis has spent the last 10 seasons in the NBA, officiating 618 regular season games and 14 playoff games. Lewis spent two years working in the USBL, officiating the Finals in 2002 and 2004. Prior to that he spent three seasons in the NBA D-League, where he worked the 2003 and 2004 Playoffs and 2004 Finals. He tallied eight years in the college ranks, participating in the Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley, Sunshine State, Florida Sun and Mid-Florida conferences. Lewis officiated in Florida high schools for six years. With the exception of a Cavs game that was called pretty much one sided, Lewis has been pretty good in calling the Celtics games. The Celtics are 1-3 this season and 3-7 in their last 10 games with Lewis. The Hawks are 2-0 this season and 3-7 in their last 10 with Lewis. His home W/L record is 22-20.

Tre Maddox

Tre Maddox enters his fourth NBA season having officiated 152 regular season games. Maddox’s experience includes four seasons and 158 games officiated in the D-League. He also has five seasons of NBA preseason game experienece and worked in NBA summer camps for five years.
In addition to his professional experience, Maddox officiated collegiate games for six years in the PAC 10, West Coast and Pac West Conferences and has eight years of high school officiating experience. The Celtics are 0-3 this season and 5-5 over his career as a referee. He has been a decent ref for most of those. The Hawks are 4-0 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Maddox. His home W/L record this season is 21-17.