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Celtics return home to host the Atlanta Hawks

The Celtics return home to host the Atlanta Hawks for the 2nd of 3 games this season as both teams fight for playoff positioning.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Hawks (32-26) at Boston Celtics (38-21)
Monday, February 27, 2017
7:30 PM ET
Game #60, Home Game #29
TV: CSNNE, FSSE, NBA-LP 754(DTV)/ 755(xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 92.9 FM The Game
TD Garden
Referees: Rodney Mott, Lauren Holtkamp, James Williams

The Celtics return home from a 2 game road trip to face the Atlanta Hawks. The Celtics lead the series 1-0 so far this season, winning 103-101 on January 13th. Isaiah Thomas hit the game winner with 2 seconds left and Paul Millsap missed a heave at the buzzer to end the game. They will face each other once more in Atlanta on April 6.

The Celtics are playing in back to back games, having played in Detroit on Sunday night. Atlanta last played on Saturday when they lost to the Magic 105-86. The Celtics have prided themselves on playing well in back to back games and are 9-4 on the second night of back to back games and 3-1 when the games are road/home.

Last season the Hawks won the series 3-1 with the Celtics winning the first game in Boston and then losing the final 3 meetings of the regular season. The Celtics also faced the Haws in the first round of the playoffs, which the Hawks won 4-2. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games while the Hawks are 5-5 in their last 10. The Celtics are 20-8 at home while the Hawks are 16-13 on the road.

The Hawks is another team that improved itself when they acquired Ersan Ilyasova from the 76ers at the trade deadline. They also added Ryan Kelly and Lamar Patterson from the D-League. Ilyasova has given the Celtics problems this season playing for the Sixers averaging 19.5 points against the Celtics this season.

Kelly played seven games, all starts, for the Celtics affiliate Red Claws where he averaged 27.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 35.8 minutes. Patterson played 28 games, including 27 starts, and averaged 24.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 35.8 minutes for the Reno Big Horns. And just like that, the Hawks waived Patterson on Sunday. The Hawks will shake up their starting lineup by returning Thabo Sefolosha to the starters and Tim Hardaway Jr to the bench.

Atlanta has no injuries to report at the time of this writing. Avery Bradley will start and play limited minutes. Gerald Green is questionable with a heel injury.

Standings Reset
The standings in the East are still up for grabs with several teams bunched up in the middle. The Celtics pulled to within 3 of the idle Cavs. The Cavs are hosting the Bucks on Monday. The Celtics are now 3 games ahead of the Wizards who will host the Warriors on Tuesday. Toronto also won and remain 3 games behind the Celtics. The Raptors got bad news today in that Kyle Lowry will have surgery on his wrist and is expected to be out until the playoffs. The Raptors are also playing back to back and are at the Knicks. The Celtics are 5.5 games ahead of the Hawks.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard

Isaiah Thomas vs Dennis Schroder
Avery Bradley vs Kent Bazemore

Small Forward
Jae Crowder vs Thabo Sefolosha

Power Forward
Al Horford vs Paul Millsap

Amir Johnson vs Dwight Howard

Celtics Reserves
Gerald Green
Terry Rozier
Jonas Jerebko
Kelly Olynyk
Demetrius Jackson
James Young
Tyler Zeller
Jaylen Brown
Marcus Smart

Gerald Green (heel) day to day

Head Coach

Brad Stevens

Hawks Reserves
Malcolm Delaney
Mike Dunleavy, Jr.
Kris Humphries
Mike Muscala
Taurean Prince
DeAndre Bembry
Ryan Kelly
Ersan Ilyasova
Tim Hardaway, Jr


Head Coach
Mike Budenholzer

Key Matchups
Al Horford vs Paul Millsap
Millsap is averaging 18.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game. Horford should know Millsap's game well after playing with him in Atlanta for years. Horford needs to stay with Millsap to keep him from having a big game.

Isaiah Thomas vs Dennis Schroder
Schroder is averaging 17.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game. Even off the bench, Schroder was a problem for the Celtics in the playoffs. He is a very good defender and so Isaiah will need to work harder to get his points in this game. This matchup is a bit more interesting in that in their last meeting, Schroder accused Isaiah of trash talking his family. Isaiah vehemently denied it but Schroder still maintains it happened and that may give him additional motivation to shut down Isaiah.

Honorable Mention
Amir Johnson vs Dwight Howard
Howard is averaging 13.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. He will make getting to the basket difficult for the Celtics. Amir has to somehow keep Howard off the boards and out of the paint. Hopefully he will hit a couple of 3's and be able to pull Howard out to the perimeter.

Keys to the Game
Play as a Team - The Celtics didn't get a star at the trade deadline and so they have to play harder as a team. They have to move the ball and find the open man who then has to hit his shots. More importantly they need to work as a team on defense and get stops and turn them into fast breaks. They need to remember their theme from last year's playoffs that they are One Superstar and play like it.

Take Care of the Ball - The Hawks are 9th in the league in steals with 8.3 per game. The The Hawks are 4th in the league in forcing turnovers with 15.3 per game, turning them into 16.5 points per game. The Celtics have to 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 have to make an extra effort to crash the glass and not give the Hawks extra possessions. Howard and Milsap are tough on the boards and the Celtics need to box out and aggressively go after the rebounds as a team to avoid giving them second chance and fast break points. The Hawks are 8th in the league with 13.6 second chance points per game. This may be the biggest difference in these two teams. The Celtics are averaging 41.1 rebounds per game while the Hawks are averaging 44.1 rebounds per game. The Celtics need a gang rebound attitude like they had against the Pistons with everyone crashing the boards.

- Defense wins games. 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. Both of these teams pride themselves on playing tough defense. The Celtics have to focus on playing tough lock down defense if they want to get a win.

Be Aggressive
- The Celtics must be the team that plays harder and that wants this win more. 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 from start to finish.

Focus and Fatigue
- The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games after being on the road and so fatigue and focus may be factors. They have to come out focused on the game and on playing their best against a tough Atlanta team. They have to concentrate on playing team ball and stay focused throughout the game. Staying focused may help them stave off fatigue from playing two nights in a row.

Playing for Al - Every player likes to beat their former team. The Celtics beat them the first time they played them and I'm sure he would love to get a win in this one and win the season series from them. This should give the team added motivation if they needed any.

Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. The Celtics play best when the officials let them play and don't call a lot of ticky tack fouls for incidental contact. Referees with an agenda are always a possibility as well. But the Celtics can't let the officials take them out of their game with bad or ticky tack calls. They have to play their game regardless of the way the game is called

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