Atlanta Hawks (3-2) at Boston Celtics (2-3)
Thursday, April 28. 2016
8:00 PM ET
Round 1 Game #6 Home Game #3
TV: TNT, CSNNE, FSSE, Sportsnet One
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 92.9 FM The Game
Referees: Scott Foster, Tony Brothers, James Williams
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. They were in this same position going into game 3, down 2 games to none and fighting for their playoff lives. They came back to tie the series then and will need that same kind of fight to once again tie the series and force a game 7.
Their task may be even more daunting with Isaiah Thomas hobbled with an ankle injury that sent him to the locker room at the start of the 4th quarter of game 5. He tweaked it in game 4 and then again in game 5 but has said that he will definitely play in this game. The question is how effective can he be while fighting the ankle injury.
In game 5, the Hawks employed the same strategy as they did in games 1 and 2 in Atlanta. They doubled and tripled Isaiah and dared the rest of the team to beat them. Isaiah Thomas called out his teammates after the game 5 blowout loss saying that the Hawks are disrespecting his teammates and that they need to make plays and hit shots to keep that from being effective.
The Celtics are trying to avoid losing their 3rd straight playoff series, something that hasn't happened since their first 3 series from 1948-1952. The Hawks are trying to beat the Celtics after losing the last nine playoff series between these two teams. So far, the home team has won every game in the series. The Celtics have to hope that this trend continues as they hope to get a win on their home court to even the series.
Along with Isaiah's ankle, Jae Crowder is still dealing with the ankle injury that has affected his shooting. He has been working hard at trying to get back on track, but he is still struggling. Avery Bradley is still out with the hamstring injury that has sidelined him since game 1. Kelly Olynyk returned to the lineup but has not been able to regain his pre-injury form. The Hawks are basically healthy other than Tiago Splitter who has missed the whole series.
PG: Isaiah Thomas............................................ SG: Evan Turner
C: Amir Johnson
SF: Jae Crowder.............................................. PF: Jonas Jerebko
Avery Bradley (hamstring) out
Isaiah Thomas (ankle) probable
PG: Jeff Teague ..................................................... SG: Kyle Korver
C: Al Horford
SF: Kent Bazemore .......................................... PF: Paul Millsap
Tim Hardaway Jr
Tiago Splitter (hip) out
Amir Johnson/Jonas Jerebko vs Al Horford/Paul Millsap
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. Millsap wasn't a big factor in games 1-3 but in game 4 he came up huge with 45 points until Brad Stevens put Marcus Smart on him to limit him to 4 points over the last 14 minutes and no points in overtime. In game 5, once again, the Hawks bigs were very big in their win and the Celtics couldn't come up with a way to counter them.
Isaiah Thomas vs Jeff Teague
Teague is a handful for anyone to guard but the Celtics did a decent job of matching his scoring and then some in games 3 and 4 with Isaiah having more room to score. Once again in game 5 the Hawks found a way to limit him to just 7 points on 3 of 12 shooting. Isaiah needs to score and play well for the Celtics to have a chance. For that to happen, his teammates have to step up and hit their shots.
Jae Crowder vs Kyle Korver
If Korver is open, he is going to make the Celtics pay. He has been hitting from long range and is a very dangerous scorer. He can put up a lot of points in a hurry. Jae needs to limit Korver's open looks while at the same time, knock down some shots on the other end.
Brad Stevens vs Mike Budenholzer
So far, this has been a chess game between the two coaches with Brad Stevens clearly getting the upper hand in games 3 and 4. Budenholzer seemed to get the upper hand in game 5. It's Brad's turn now. 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 both going into the game and throughout all 4 quarters.
Keys to the Game
Start Strong and Don't Let Up! - For the first two games, the Celtics came out flat and then had to come back from big deficits. They 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 to even get close. In game 5 they once again started slow but the Hawks struggled as well but the Hawks caught fire and the Celtics couldn't get going. The Celtics have got to start strong and they have to play hard throughout the game with no let up.
Defense - Defense wins games. It is the key to winning every game. Every player must step up and work harder to get stops as a team. The Hawks definitely raised their defense to the next level in their home games and the Celtics need to step up their game and play tough team defense to disrupt the Hawks offense in this game.
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. If others can step up and hit their shots, it will take some of the pressure off of Isaiah so he can once again be effective.
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 all 3 of their wins. The Celtics won the battle of the boards in their 2 wins. It will be key for the Celtics 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 are already missing Avery Bradley and if Isaiah Thomas is limited in any way by his ankle injury, it may be too much for the Celtics to overcome. Jae has not been the same since coming back from the ankle injury and Kelly Olynyk has not been effective since returning from the shoulder injury. 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 were able to overcome an 0-2 start to even the series with 2 wins at home. They need to feed off the energy of the home crowd and the friendly confines of the TD Garden and hopefully the crowd will once again rattle the Hawks enough for the Celtics to get another home win.
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. 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. Game 2 was slightly one sided toward the Hawks. Games 3 and 4 were decently called but slightly tilted toward the Celtics. The officiating in game 5 was decent as well. Hopefully the officiating will be fair and they will let them play in this one.
A veteran official of 21 NBA seasons, Scott Foster has worked 1,305 regular season and 124 Playoff games, including 14 Finals games during his career. He was a member of the crew that officiated the 1996 Europe Tour in Berlin, Germany and Seville, Spain. In addition to his NBA experience, Foster has two years of CBA officiating experience, two years of collegiate officiating experience in the Southern and Big South conferences and six years of high school officiating experience in Maryland.
Foster came into the public eye as the best friend of former referee Tim Donaghy. In his book, Donaghy describes Foster as a very honest and good guy who knew nothing of his gambling. However, recently Donaghy described Foster as a company man who will do what is asked of him to keep his seniority among refs. Foster was part of the 2010 Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter completely different than the first 3 quarters and very one sided for the Lakers with 21 free throws for the Lakers and 6 for the Celtics in the final 12 minutes.
Foster led the officiating crew that called the game vs the Bucks this season. They let both teams play with the Celtics shooting 19 free throws to 23 for the Bucks. It was evenly officiated with both teams being allowed to play without being called for ticky tack fouls. He also called a game vs the Bulls this season and they let them play and called it evenly in that one as well. The last game he called for the Celtics was against the Cavaliers. The officiating was terrible in that game. The free throws were 29-11 going into the 4th quarter. They allowed the Cavs to hack and push and mug the Celtics while not allowing any contact by the Celtics.
Foster and Brothers (also calling this game) were on a crew that blew 4 important calls in overtime of game 2 of last year's finals which the league admitted after the fact. Even though Foster's home W/L record is 41-24 with the home team winning more, home teams have won just 2 out of the last 14 playoff games that Foster has worked. Both Foster and Brothers called game 1 of this series. 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.
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. And now we have these two refs once again in this game. The Celtics are 2-2 this season, and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Foster. The Hawks are 3-5 this season and 3-7 in their last 10. His home W/L record is 41-24.
"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!"
Tony Brothers is entering his 22nd season as an NBA official and has officiated 1,270 regular season games, 84 Playoff games and five NBA Finals games during his career. He was a member of the crew that officiated the 1996 Mexico Challenge, 1998 Schick Rookie Game, 1999 McDonald’s Championship in Milan, Italy and the 2008 China Games.Prior to joining the NBA, Brothers spent four years officiating in the CBA, including three CBA Finals and a CBA All-Star Game. He has one year of collegiate officiating experience at the Junior College level. Brothers also has seven years of high school officiating experience in Virginia, including three state tournaments.
Two seasons ago, in a game vs the Knicks, twice Brothers made the correct call from across the court after Dick Bavetta, who was standing right on top of it, missed the call. All in all, Brothers used to be one of the better refs in the league, but seems to be getting worse and worse as the seasons go on. In a game last season against the Lakers, he was terrible. He was the referee who ejected Isaiah Thomas on a bogus technical call, which has since been rescinded. He also missed a clear travel and double dribble by Lin right in front of him at a very crucial time. There were bad calls and phantom calls all game. The Lakers shot 38 free throws to 27 for the Celtics. Even the Lakers fans were complaining about the officiating going their way all game. Here is a comment from the Lakers boards that says it all, "The Refs are screwing our tank."
This season, in the loss to Dallas, the officiating was terrible. After they called 2 clean blocks by the Celtics fouls, Tommy yelled, "That's 2 strikes against them." Then after failing to call a Parsons elbow to Smart's head right in front of the ref, Tommy yelled "This is getting obnoxious." They were so bad they even got an "Oh, come on!" from Mike who rarely complains. Here are just a couple comments from many from Mavs fans:
"Curious sequence there. Phantom foul on Bradley, Lee gets mugged - no call, and ticky tack foul on Lee"
"I'd be pissed if I was a Celtics fan at this officiating."
"I'll take the win but without the refs help, we lose this one."
Dallas shot 35 free throws to 24 for Boston, even after several intentional fouls by Boston at the end. Brother was also the crew chief in the game against the Timberwolves. In that game calls went the Celtics way at first. After 2 technical fouls against Minnesota's bench things reversed and calls went mostly the Wolves way. Again, the Timberwolves fans said it best:
"The refs were the MVP tonight for us."
"It's weird being on the other side of poor officiating."
"Free throws the only thing keeping us afloat in this one."
"We're getting all the calls we didn't get other nights."
When fans admit they are getting help from the refs, you know that the officiating is bad. Minnesota shot 32 free throws to just 16 for the Celtics. In a Pacers game this season, they mostly let both sides play but missed a couple of big calls that even the ESPN announcers mentioned. One was an out of bounds play and the other was an offensive foul against Amir that was not called. Other than a few glaring calls, they weren't all that bad in that game. It's funny that before the game, both fan bases were bemoaning the fact that Brothers was one of the refs.
He called a game vs the Kings this season and again, the officiating was terrible. The officials allowed a lot of contact by the Kings but none by the Celtics. Again, the Kings fans said it best:
"Hahaha these refe are bad. That was definitely a foul on Rondo."
"We can use all the help we can get. I imagine Boston fans aren't too happy with the officiating today."
"I'd be furious if I was a Boston fan."
The free throws at the end of the 3rd quarter 17-5 in favor of the Kings. After several intentional fouls by the Celtics to stop the clock, the final total was 19-15 in favor of Sacramento. The Celtics took no free throws in either the 2nd or 3rd quarters. The last game he called was against Portland. They let them play early, but tightened it up towards the end. They gave the Celtics the benefit of several no calls down the stretch. The Celtics shot 24 free throws to 29 for the Blazers. Portland fans had a lot of complaints about the officiating.
As stated above, Brothers teamed with Foster in game 1 to basically give the game to the Hawks. You never know what you will get with Brothers as a ref. Sometimes he is good and sometimes he is very bad. The Celtics are 5-3 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 with Brothers. The Hawks are 5-3 this season and 6-4 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 40-25.
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 5-2 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Williams while the Hawks are 5-2 this season and 8-2 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 36-31.