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Celtics look to bounce back as they visit the Atlanta Hawks

The Celtics visit the Atlanta Hawks for the 3rd and final meeting this season and look to win the series for the first time in 3 years.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics (50-28) at Atlanta Hawks (39-38)
Thursday, April 6, 2017
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #79, Road Game #40
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 92.9 FM The Game
Philips Arena

Referees: James Capers, Matt Boland, Kane Fitzgerald

The Celtics will try to bounce back from the dispirited loss to the Cavs as they visit the Atlanta Hawks for the 3rd and final game this season. The series is tied 1-1 with the Celtics winning 103-101 on January 13th in Atlanta. Isaiah Thomas hit the game winner with 2 seconds left and Paul Millsap missed a heave at the buzzer to end the game, giving Al Horford a win in his first game back in Atlanta. The Hawks beat the Celtics 114-97 in Boston on February 27.

The Hawks have won the series the past 2 seasons and the Celtics are hoping to end that trend with a win in this game. The Hawks have been struggling lately and have lost their last 2 games and 8 of their last 10 games. The Celtics are coming off a loss to the Cavs but are 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 22-17 on the road while the Hawks are 20-18 at home.

The Celtics are playing in the last of their 17 back to back sets this season. The Celtics are 10-6 overall on the second night of back to back games and 4-3 when the games are home/road. For the second night in a row, the game will be televised on national TV, this time on TNT's Thursday showcase. Hopefully they show up for this one since they didn't show up against the Cavs.

The Celtics should be injury free. Jae Crowder returned to the starting lineup against the Cavs, although his elbow isn't 100%. Avery Bradley also returned from his stomach bug once again and is expected to be fine. Tyler Zeller missed Wednesday's game for personal reasons but is expected back for this game.

The Hawks have a long list of players with various bumps and bruises who are returning from injuries and are expected to play with some minutes restrictions. Kent Bazemore (knee), Paul Millsap (knee), and Malcolm Delaney (back) are all listed as probable. Tim Hardaway, Jr (knee) is a game time decision. Thabo Sefolosha (groin) is listed as being out for this game.

Standings Reset
With their loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday, the Celtics once again drop to #2 in the East, 1 game behind Cleveland. Toronto is 2.5 games back in 3rd place and have Kyle Lowry back in the lineup. The Wizards are 3 games back in the 4th spot. Atlanta has slipped to the 6th seed, 10.5 games behind the Celtics.
Games to Watch: 2/6 Washington at New York Knicks
2/7 Atlanta at Cleveland, Miami at Toronto

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard

Isaiah Thomas vs Dennis Schroder

Shooting Guard
Avery Bradley vs Tim Hardaway Jr

Small Forward
Jae Crowder vs Taurean Prince

Power Forward [/b]
Amir Johnson vs Paul Millsap

Al Horford vs Dwight Howard

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


Head Coach

Brad Stevens

Hawks Reserves
DeAndre Bembry
Jose Calderon
Mike Dunleavy
Kris Humphries
Ersan Ilyasova
Ryan Kelly
Mike Muscala

Malcolm Delaney (back) probable
Tim Hardaway Jr (knee) game time decision
Paul Millsap (knee) probable
Thabo Sefolosha (groin) out
Kent Bazemore (knee) probable

Head Coach
Mike Budenholzer

Key Matchups
Amir Johnson vs Paul Millsap
One of the reasons that the Hawks started to slip in the standings was due to an injury to Paul Millsap. But Millsap back and is averaging 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. In the 2 games vs the Celtics this season, Millsap has averaged 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.5 steals. We may see Amir guarding Howard more while Horford matches up with his former teammate.

Isaiah Thomas vs Dennis Schroder
Schroder is averaging 18.1 points, 3.1 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. Schroder dislikes Isaiah and the Celtics and so expect him to put extra effort into trying to get a win in this one.

Honorable Mention
Al Horford vs Dwight Howard
Howard is averaging 13.4 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. He will make getting to the basket difficult for the Celtics. The Celtics need to somehow keep Howard off the boards and out of the paint. Both Amir and Al need to hit their outside shots to draw the Hawks defenders away from the hoop.

Keys to the Game
Play as a Team - The Celtics play best when they play as a team on both ends of the court. They have to move the ball and find the open man who then has to hit his shots. 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 5th in the league in steals with 8.3 per game. The Hawks are 2nd in the league in forcing turnovers with 15.5 per game leading to 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 Celtics are averaging 41.8 rebounds per game while the Hawks are averaging 44.3 rebounds per game. The Celtics need to put out extra effort to win the battle of 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. The allowed the Cavs to be the team that played harder on Wednesday and they can't make that same mistake two games in a row.

- The Celtics have to come out focused on the game and on playing their best against a tough Atlanta team. They didn't seem very focused against the Cavs and they have to correct that in this game if they want to win. They have to block out all of the distractions that playing on the road can bring and put their all into getting a win in this game.

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, especially playing on the road. 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.

Ref Alert - James Capers has been very inconsistent with calls over the years. He has been very bad in several games in the past few years.

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