The Celtics are on the road again to take on the Atlanta Hawks for the 3rd of 4 games this season. The Celtics won 114-96 on November 23 at Atlanta. They also won the second meeting 129-108 in Boston on December 14. They will meet one more time in Boston on March 16.
The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games. They are coming off a win at home over the Memphis Grizzlies. They haven’t done well in this situation, going only 2-5 on the second night of back to back games. They are just 1-2 when the games are Home/Road. The Hawks have been off since Tuesday when they beat the Thunder at home.
The Celtics remain 5th in the East, 6 games behind Toronto and 2.5 games behind 4th place Philadelphia. They are 10-13 on the road. The Hawks are 12th in the East, 7 games out of playoff contention. They are 8-11 at home and are looking for their second strait win.
The Celtics are still mostly healthy with Gordon Hayward out for personal reasons. The Hawks will be missing Kent Bazemore with an ankle injury and Miles Plumlee with a knee injury. Dewayne Dedmon (ankle) and Jeremy Lin (flu) both missed the Hawks last game but returned to practice on Thursday. Dedmon is listed as probable while Lin is not on today’s injury list and should play. John Collins and Trae Young were briefly listed as questionable with an illness but are, as of now, listed as probable.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jabari Bird (personal) out
Gordon Hayward (personal) out
Two Way Players
Probable Hawks Starters
Kent Bazemore (ankle) out
Miles Plumlee (knee) out
Jeremy Lin (flu) probable
Dewayne Dedmon (ankle) probable
John Collins (illness) probable
Trae Young (illness) probable
Two Way Players
Kyrie Irving vs Trae Young
Kyre has to deal with one of this year’s best rookies. Young is averaging 16.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game. He is shooting 40% from the field. Young will have his hands full as he is facing an energized Kyrie and Kyrie will need to keep the young player from having a career game at his expense.
Marcus Morris vs John Collins
Collins is playing very well for the Hawks, averaging 19.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He is shooting 58% from the field. Collins put up a team high 19 points when these teams last met.
Celtics Bench vs Hawks Bench
The Hawks reserves have been playing very well. They are 1st in the league in steals (3.75), 4th in blocks (2.5), 6th in rebounds (19.2), 6th in assists (9.4) and 8th in points (42.7). The Celtics reserves need to come in and play hard and not take this group for granted.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. The Hawks are averaging 109.9 points per game, however they put up 142 points against the Thunder on Tuesday. The Celtics have to keep making defense a priority and not let up on the effort necessary to get stops.
Take Care of the Ball - The Hawks are 9th in the league in steals with 8.6 per game and 7th with 18.3 points off turnovers. They are 6th in deflections with 14.8 per game. 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 45.6 rebounds per game while the Hawks are averaging 45.1 rebounds per game. Rebounding takes effort and energy and the Celtics need to put out extra effort and energy to win the battle of the boards.
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 Hawks are 1st in the league in loose balls recovered with 10.7 per game and the Celtics will need to be the more aggressive team.
Effort and Energy - The Celtics losses have been mostly the result of low energy and not enough energy. When they played the Raptors, we saw what they could accomplish when they play very hard. The Hawks lead the league in pace at 105.6 and the Celtics will need both effort and energy to get a win in this one, despite the Hawks record.
The Hawks Record - 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 is coming off a 142-126 win over the Thunder. They also have a good bench and, regardless of their record, are capable of beating any team that doesn’t respect them.
Focus On the Road - The Celtics are on the road and they have to focus on the game at hand and not the hostile crowd or the other distractions that a team faces when on the road. Al Horford is returning to the city where he spent 9 seasons before signing with the Celtics. Hopefully he will be able to put that aside to play well against his former team. The Celtics haven’t been playing well on the road with just a 10-13 record away from home. They need to focus and bring their A game in order to get the win in this one and end their road losing streak.