The Celtics hit the road again for one game to visit the Atlanta Hawks for the second of 3 games this season. The Celtics squeaked pas the Hawks 109-106 on January 3. They will meet again in Boston on February 7. The Celtics swept the series 4-0 last season. They have a 238-143 record all time vs the Hawks.
In spite of the Hawk’s record, which is last in the East, they have been playing better in January. Six of their 13 wins came in January. They also beat the 76ers and the Clippers in the month. The Celtics were down 18 points in the first quarter and fought their way back to get a 3 point win behind some heroics by Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis.
The Celtics continue to have injury problems with Marcus Smart joining the injury list with a thigh bruise from the Philly game. He is out for this game. Kemba Walker remains out with knee soreness. I’m guessing that Brad Wanamaker will get the start at the point but Brad can be creative and may go in a different direction.
Tremont Waters and Carsen Edwards have both been called up to the Celtics and are with the team in Atlanta. Enes Kanter is listed as available for this game. Tacko Fall is back with the Red Claws. Robert Williams remains out with the hip injury and is not expected back until after the All Star game. He is, however, making progress toward coming back.
The Hawks seem to be having even more injury problems than the Celtics. De’Andre Hunter missed Saturday’s game and is questionable for this game. Trae Young left Saturday’s game with a sprained ankle and is also questionable for this game. Bruno Fernando missed the last 3 games with a calf strain and is also questionable for this game. All will be a game time decision.
DeAndre’ Bembry has missed the last 6 games with a nerve issue in his hand and is doubtful for this game. Alex Len is out with a hip injury. Jabari Parker is out with a shoulder injury. Chandler Parsons is out with a concussion. Cam Reddish is also out with a concussion. And Vince Carter is just 3 months younger than Celtics coach Brad Stevens and is expected to play after twisting his ankle in Saturday’s game.
Probable Celtics Starters
Enes Kanter (hip) available
Robert Williams III (hip) out
Marcus Smart (thigh) out
Kemba Walker (knee) out
Two Way Players
Probable Hawks Starters
DeAndre Bembry (hand) doubtful
Trae Young (ankle) questionable
Jabari Parker (shoulder) out
Alex Len (hip) out
Chandler Parsons (concussion) out
Cam Reddish (concussion) out
De’Andre Hunter (ankle) questionable
Two Way Players
Charlie Brown, Jr
Brad Wanamaker vs Trae Young
Young is averaging 29.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 44.6% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. With Kemba and Marcus both out, I’m guessing that Wanamaker will get the start but Brad may also go in a different direction. One of the keys to this game is to slow down Young, who is just coming back from a sprained ankle but is very dangerous on the offensive end.
Jayson Tatum vs John Collins
Collins is playing very well for the Hawks, averaging 19.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 assists. He is shooting 54.9% from the field and 33.7% from beyond the arc. Tatum will need to keep Collins off the boards and out of the paint, especially.
Gordon Hayward vs De’Andre Hunter
Hunter is averaging 12.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. He is shooting 41.1% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. Gordon has been playing very well lately and the Celtics need him to contribute on both ends of the court with Kemba out and Marcus questionable.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games and is always a key to getting a win. The Hawks are averaging 109.0 points per game while the Celtics are averaging 112.5 points per game. But we have seen many times, teams that are struggling to score suddenly can’t miss against the Celtics. The Celtics have to keep making defense a priority and not let up on the effort necessary to get stops. The Celtics have to especially guard the paint since the Hawks are 4th in the league with 50.3 points in the paint. They are last in 3 point percentage, but that doesn’t mean the Celtics can leave them open on the perimeter. They have to play tough defense inside and out.
Rebound - Rebounding gives the Celtics extra possessions and it also deprives the Hawks of the same. The Celtics are averaging 45.5 rebounds per game while the Hawks are averaging 43.2 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 and when they do, it usually leads to 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. The Celtics can’t let up because the Hawks are last in the conference. The Celtics must be the team that plays harder.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics always play best when they run on every possession and when they move the ball and don’t over dribble. When they run, they have a chance to get easy baskets before the Hawks defense gets set. When they move the ball, they find the open man and get the best shots. They have to keep the ball moving and not revert to hero ball.
Don’t Underestimate - 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 has some good young players who are capable of having a good game. Regardless of their record, are capable of beating any team that doesn’t respect them. They recently beat both the 76ers and the Clippers and that should be enough to make the Celtics respect them and come out and play hard.
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. They need to focus and bring their A game in order to get the win in this one.
Officiating - The style of officiating can affect the outcome of a game. They don’t even have to favor one team over the other. When officials call every little bit of contact, the Celtics seem to struggle. When the refs let them play, the Celtics play much better. The Celtics have to adjust to the way the refs call the game and not allow bad or missed calls to take away their focus. Hopefully the refs call it fairly and let both teams play.