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Celtics’ skeleton crew takes on last place Atlanta Hawks

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Shorthanded Celtics host the last place Atlanta Hawks as they look for 3rd straight win.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics continue their home stand as they host the Hawks for the 3rd of 4 regular season games. The Celtics won a close one in Atlanta on November 6 by just 110-107. They also won 110-99 in Atlanta on November 18. They will face off once more in Boston on April 8.

The Hawks have the worst record in the league with just 15 wins. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and lost their last game. They are 4-20 on the road. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games and have won their last 2 games. They are 19-8 at home.

Dennis Schroder played on on Wednesday with a sore shoulder and is listed as questionable for this game. If he can’t play, I’m not sure who would get the start in his place. DeAndre Bembry is out with a groin injury.

Kyrie Irving missed Wednesday’s game with a quad injury and is out again for this one. Shane Larkin is also out once again with a sore knee. Marcus Morris took a hard fall on Wednesday and is out for this one with a sore backside. Marcus Smart (hand) and Gordon Hayward (ankle) are also out.

Celtics Reserves
Abdel Nader
Semi Ojeleye
Daniel Theis
Guerschon Yabusele
Terry Rozier
Marcus Morris
Jarell Eddie
Kadeem Allen

Injuries
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Marcus Smart (hand) out
Shane Larkin (knee) out
Kyrie Irving (quad) out
Marcus Morris (hip) out
Greg Monroe (not here yet but on his way)

Two Way Players
Jabari Bird
Kadeem Allen

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Hawks Starters

Hawks Reserves
Luke Babbitt
Marco Belinelli
DeAndre Bembry
Tyler Cavanaugh
John Collins
Dewayne Dedmon
Malcolm Delaney
Tyler Dorsey
Mike Muscala
Isaiah Taylor

Injuries DeAndre Bembry (groin) out
Dennis Schroder (shoulder) questionable

Two Way Players
Josh Magette
Andrew White III

Head Coach
Mike Budenholzer

Key Matchups

Terry Rozier vs Dennis Schroder
Schroder is playing very well in spite of the Hawks losing record. He is averaging 19.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.1 steals. He put up 23 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals vs the Celtics in their first meeting and 23 points and 9 assists in the second meeting. Limiting Schroder will go a long way toward getting a win.

Jaylen Brown vs Kent Bazemore
Bazemore is averaging 13.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.7 steals. He struggled in the first meeting between these two teams with just 5 points and 5 turnovers. He did pull down 8 rebounds, though. Hopefully Brown will play well and win this matchup.

Honorable Mention
Jayson Tatum vs Taurean Prince
Prince is averaging 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Tatum should be able to win this matchup if he continues to play as well as he has been.

Keys to the Game

Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics remain first in the league with a defensive rating of 99.7 while the Hawks are 26th with a defensive rating of 108.4. The Celtics have to keep making defense a priority and not let up on the effort necessary to get stops. The Celtics allowed the Hawks to score 107 points in their first meeting and that is not acceptable. The Hawks are close to the Celtics in scoring and better in some things and so defense will be the difference in this game.

Take Care of the Ball - The Hawks are 2nd in forcing turnovers, forcing 16.0 per game. They are first in the league with 18.6 points off turnovers. The Celtics have to avoid making sloppy passes and they have to be aware when dribbling to avoid turning the ball over as the Hawks will make them pay if they do.

Rebound - Rebounding gives the Celtics extra possessions and it also deprives the Hawks of the same. The Celtics are averaging 44.4 rebounds per game (9th) while the Hawks are averaging 40.8 rebounds per game (26th). The Celtics need to continue to put out extra effort to win the battle of the boards as the Hawks are 12th with 12.8 second chance points per game and the Celtics need to limit them in that area.

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. The more aggressive team will usually get the benefit of calls. It’s always easy to let up against losing teams, but if they do, they may end up with a loss as, in spite of their record, the Hawks play hard.
X-Factors
Trap Game - This has the makings of a trap game. Atlanta has just 15 wins this season. The Celtics have won two straight, including a blowout win over the Knicks. The Celtics have to be careful not to underestimate the Hawks and they have to come out and play hard and respect the Hawks as a team that came close to beating them they first time they met.

Next Man Up - Against the Knicks, Terry Rozier and others stepped up their game to help the Celtics get a win in spite of missing Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Shane Larkin. The Celtics are also missing Marcus Morris in this one and so they will need others to step up also.