Atlanta Hawks (2-0) at Boston Celtics (0-2)
Friday, April 22. 2016
8:00 PM ET
Round 1 Game #3 Home Game #1
TV: ESPN2, CSNNE, FSSE, TSN2
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 92.9 FM The Game
Referees: Marc Davis, Eric Lewis, Zach Zarba
The series now moves back to Boston with the Celtics needing to regroup and find a way to deal with the Hawks defense and also to find a way to get their offense back on track. The Celtics shot an average of 25.8% in the first half of their two games so far. They have to figure out how to get off to a better start and also how to finally get shots to fall for them.
Brad Stevens mentioned possible lineup changes. He could start Rozier or Turner in place of Bradley instead of Smart. Turner started the second half of game 2 instead of Jared Sullinger and that's another possibility along with possibly starting Jerebko in place of Sully. Or, he may decide not to change up the starters and go with a different strategy using the same players.
Whatever the Celtics do, getting off to a better start is a must. In both games so far they have fallen behind early. They scored a record low 7 points in the first quarter of game 2 and spent the rest of the game trying to catch up, which they never did. We have to hope that being at home with the crowd behind them to energize them, the Celtics will get their shots to fall and be able to handle the Hawks stingy defense.
The Celtics need to find a way to fill in the hole left by Avery Bradley on both ends of the court. Avery will miss this game with the hamstring injury he suffered in game1. Kelly Olynyk is questionable with the shoulder injury. Marcus Smart was already playing with a sprained finger and he added bruised ribs in game 2. He is expected to play in this game.
Jae Crowder is still dealing with the ankle injury that sidelined him for 8 games down the stretch. Isaiah Thomas is dealing with a wrist injury on his shooting hand. Both have to find a way to play through the injury and be productive. For Atlanta, Tiago Splitter is still out and Dennis Schroder, who injured his ankle in the final minutes of game 2, missed Thursday's practice and is questionable for this game.
It seems as though the chips are stacked against the Celtics but they have defied the odds all year and seem to be at their best when their backs are against the wall. I certainly wouldn't bet against them. The Celtics went 3-3 without Bradley this season, including the Celtics' only win over the Hawks back in November. They also beat Golden State with Jae Crowder, one of their best defenders, sitting out the game. They were 19-3 at home since January 13 and averaged 27.7 points on 46% shooting in the first quarters over that span.
PG: Isaiah Thomas............................................ SG: Marcus Smart
C: Jared Sullinger
SF: Jae Crowder.............................................. PF: Amir Johnson
Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) questionable
Marcus Smart (finger/bruised ribs) probable
Avery Bradley (hamstring) out
PG: Jeff Teague ..................................................... SG: Kyle Korver
C: Al Horford
SF: Kent Bazemore .......................................... PF: Paul Millsap
Tim Hardaway Jr
Tiago Splitter (hip) out
Dennis Schroder (ankle) questionable
Amir Johnson/Jared Sullinger vs Paul Millsap/Amir Johnson
The Celtics bigs have got to defend well against the Hawks big men. Millsap and Horford can hit from outside and are also very strong going to the basket. They have both had big games against the Celtics and it will be crucial for the Celtics to limit their effectiveness. Jared and Amir also have to hit their shots and play well on the offensive end. The Celtics bigs need to play inside more to counteract the effectiveness of the Hawks bigs who owned the paint in game 2
Isaiah Thomas vs Jeff Teague
Teague is a handful for anyone to guard and so expect either Rozier or Smart, if they start to defend Teague and try to slow him down. It will be key for Isaiah to get his offense going. He has been dealing with a sore wrist on his shooting hand and scored 27 in game one, shooting just 8-21. He scored just 16 points in game 2. The Celtics will need Isaiah to to play better if they want to win this game.
Brad Stevens vs Mike Budenholzer
With the Celtics being short handed, Brad needs to make adjustments and use the right rotations to get the most out of the players and make up for the absence and limitations due to injuries. Coaching is going to be very important in this game with both coaches trying to make adjustments to counter the adjustments made by the opposing coach.
Keys to the Game
Start Strong - For three straight games, the Celtics have come out flat and then had to come back from big deficits. They were able to come back from 26 down and win by 10 against the Heat, but couldn't get the win after coming back from 19 down against the Hawks, losing by just 1 point. In game 2 they had a historically horrible start and could not overcome that. The Celtics can't keep starting slow and getting behind big and expect to be able to come back and win. They need to come out strong to start the game and keep the effort up right until the final buzzer.
Defense - Defense wins games. It is the key to winning every game. The Celtics will miss Avery's defense but need to have every player step up and work harder to get stops as a team. Rozier has been solid on defense in the minutes he's played and Smart is still one of the better defenders in the league. The Hawks definitely raised their defense to the next level in game 2 and the Celtics need to step up their game and get stops since they won't win if it becomes a shoot out.
Focus on Offense - The Celtics have to find someone with a hot hand who is able to score. The Celtics also have to realize that if the 3 pointers aren't falling, they need to go to the basket. The Celtics have to get into the paint more, especially if they continue to struggle from beyond the arc. They have to focus on hitting shots whether inside or out. They also have to be aware of the Hawks' shot blockers and try to avoid a repeat of the 15 blocked shots in game 2.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the team that plays harder and that wants this win more, especially to start the game and then keep it up until the final buzzer. They have to be aggressive in diving for loose balls, in going to the basket, in getting stops on the defensive end, and in going after rebounds. They have to play harder and be more aggressive from start to finish. Their best hope to beat the Hawks is to play harder and with more energy.
Rebound - The Celtics need to put out the extra effort to grab rebounds. The Hawks aren't a great rebounding team and yet they beat the Celtics on the boards in both games. The Celtics need to box out and fight for every rebound to prevent 2nd chance points for the Hawks and to give themselves extra possessions. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics must put out the extra effort to beat the Hawks to the rebounds.
Injuries - The Celtics will miss Avery Bradley and will need every player to step up to help fill in for him. Also the injuries to Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, and Jae Crowder could have an effect on the team, even if they are able to play. Jae has not been the same since coming back from the ankle injury and Isaiah has struggled since aggravating his wrist injury against the Bucks. The Celtics need every one of them to be effective and overcome the limitations that those injuries cause.
Home Court- The Celtics have played very well at home winning 19 of 22 since mid-January. They need to feed off the energy of the home crowd and the friendly confines and get off to a good start and then play hard on both ends of the court right up until the final buzzer.
Officiating - I say this every game but the officiating is an x-factor in every single game. We saw this first hand in game 1. The officials favored the Hawks the entire game and even the Hawks fans admitted it in their forums. Here are a few comments from the Hawks fans.
"Foul calls definitely going our way early."
"Celtics getting manhandled in the paint with no calls."
"[dang], Hawks getting all the calls."
"All the calls going our way and still the lead shrinks."
"Mommy, can we keep this referee crew?"
"Man, I'm loving these refs!"
"Refs trying to give us the game and we blowing it!"
The league admitted to making 3 crucial bad calls and non-calls against the Celtics in the final 2 minutes of the 1 point loss. I believe if the game was called fairly and competently the Celtics would have won it. In my opinion they owe us one. The officiating wasn't quite as bad in the second game where they let a lot of contact go both ways. Hopefully the Celtics will get a fair shake from the refs in this game.
Marc Davis has been an NBA official for the past 17 seasons, working 977 regular season games, 55 Playoff games, and the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. Davis has officiated four Finals games during his career. In addition to his NBA experience, Davis has three years of CBA officiating experience and three years of collegiate basketball officiating experience in the OVC and TAAC Junior Colleges. He grew up in Chicago and is still active in the Chicago area.
Davis was investigated for threatening to whoop Allen Iverson's a** when AI complained about a call in a game in 2005, but was not suspended for it. The Celtics history with Davis goes way back also. In 2009, Davis was seen after a Celtics/Bulls game with his family all decked out in Bulls gear. It was Davis that Rajon Rondo bumped in a terribly officiated playoff game vs Atlanta and was ejected and suspended for it.
In a game three seasons ago against the Bulls, the officiating was terrible. With 12 seconds left, Pierce was trapped and fouled, including a busted lip, right in front of Davis with no call. Rondo was signalling for a time out right in Davis' face but they called a jump ball instead of calling the foul or the time out. Even Hubie Brown was talking about how bad the calls were the entire game and Hubie doesn't usually comment on the officiating.
Two seasons ago, in a game against the Kings, Davis even got to the mild mannered Brad Stevens. Davis ignored obvious pushing and shoving by DeMarcus Cousins all night. At one point, Gerald Wallace pointed out an obvious foul by Cousins and was tossed to which Stevens pointed out that he could have thrown out Cousins all game and was tossed as well. He was decent in each of his games last season and, if anything, in a couple of the games, he gave the Celtics the benefit of the doubt. I wonder if his problem was with Rondo all along and with Rondo gone, he's feeling a kind of kinship with the Celtics. Stranger things have happened,
Davis' only games with the Celtics this season was a win in the preseason over the Nets, a 1 point win over the Knicks, a win at Philly and a loss to Charlotte. All 4 games were reasonably well officiated. The Celtics are 3-1 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Davis while the Hawks are 1-5 this season and 3-7 in their last 10 with Davis. He is a homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 45-23.
Lewis has spent the last 12 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.
A Cavs game last season was called pretty much one sided in favor of the Cavs (Aren't they all?). A Hawks game last season was also called one sided toward the Hawks down the stretch. In a game against the Pistons last season, the officiating was one sided toward the Pistons, who shot 43 free throws to just 24 for the Celtics. This season, He was terrible in the 4th quarter of the game vs the Grizzlies. They let a lot of contact by the Grizzlies go while calling a lot of questionable fouls on the Celtics. He failed to call a 5 step travel on Gasol right in front of him that could have changed the end of the game. Memphis shot 20 free throws to 23 for the Celtics.
The last games he called were vs the Magic and the Heat and the officiating was even
in both although they missed some calls both ways. The Celtics are 2-3 this season and 5-5 over their last 10 games with Lewis. The Hawks are 4-1 this season and 6-4 over their last 10. His home W/L record is 33-32.
Zach Zarba has officiated 764 regular season NBA games, 39 playoff games and three Finals game during his 12 year career. Prior to joining the NBA, Zarba officiated in the NBA Development League for two years, where he was part of the crew that officiated the 2003 D-League Finals. He also spent one year officiating in the CBA and two years officiating in the IBL. Zarba has three years of collegiate officiating experience in the ACC, SEC, Colonial, ASUN, OVC and NEC Conferences. In addition, he has three years of high school officiating experience in New York.
The Celtics are 3-3 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Zarba. He called the first game of the season vs the Sixers and the officiating in that game was good. In a win over Cleveland last season, however, Zarba made 3 terrible calls down the stretch which prompted Tommy to say "Zach Zarba, every time we have this guy he makes things up." He called the game vs OKC this season and overall let them play but gave OKC the benefit on quite a few calls that even Scal mentioned. But overall, they let them play. In the loss to the Nets this season, there were a lot of bad calls going both ways. They called a lot of ticky tack contact and there was no flow to the game but the officiating didn't favor either team.
Against the Magic this season there were a lot of questionable calls. Evan Turner was ejected after complaining about a series of bad/no calls. Isaiah fouled out for the first time in his career. Jonas Jerebko also fouled out. Orlando shot 35 free throws to 25 for the Celtics. In the game vs Utah this season the officiating was very good. They let both teams play and if anything, gave the Celtics the benefit of a few 50-50 calls. The Celtics shot 29 free throws to 17 for the Jazz. Utah fans thought that Zarba was a Celtics fan and Tommy thought the officiating was very good. The Hawks are 3-1 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Zarba. His home W/L record this season is 42-27.