The Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks for the 3rd and final game between these two teams this season. The Celtics won both games so far this season. They squeaked by the Hawks in Boston on January 3rd after coming back from 18 down to win 109-106. They struggled somewhat in the second game on February 3 before pulling ahead to win 123-115 in Atlanta.
The Hawks were very active at the trade deadline, trading away Alex Len and Jabari Parker and bringing in Clint Capela, DeWayne Dedmon, Skal Labissiere and Derrick Walton, Jr. The Celtics didn’t make a move at the trade deadline, choosing to stick with the players they have and possibly wait for the buyout market.
Both teams are struggling with injuries with both teams posting a lengthy injury report. The Celtics are missing three starters while the starters for the Hawks are all expected to play. Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart and Brad Wanamaker are all expected to play in this one.
Gordon Hayward (assorted bumps and bruises including foot soreness) and Jaylen Brown (ankle) are listed as out in the 1:30 PM injury report. Rob Williams (hip) and Daniel Theis (ankle are both also listed as out. I usually guess wrong when it comes to who will start when one of the regular starters is out but I’ll take a guess anyway.
I’m guessing that Marcus will start in place of Jaylen Brown and Romeo will start in place of Gordon Hayward. However, Grant Williams or Javonte Green or someone else may start instead. Tremont Waters, Carsen Edwards and Tacko Fall were all with the Red Claws on Thursday but it appears that both Carsen and Tremont will be back with the Celtics for this game.
For the Hawks, their starters are all expected to play. Cam Reddish, Skal Labissiere, DeAndre’ Bembry, and Clint Capela are all listed as out for this game. Bruno Fernando is doubtful. DeWayne Dedmon and Derrick Walton, Jr are both questionable due to the trade still pending.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III (hip) out
Daniel Theis (ankle) out
Gordon Hayward (foot) out
Jaylen Brown (ankle) out
Two Way Players
Probable Hawks Starters
DeAndre’ Bembry (hand) out
Clint Capela (heel) out
Skal Labissiere (knee) out
Cam Reddish (concussion) out
Bruno Fernando (calf) doubtful
Trae Young (ankle) probable
DeWayne Dedmon (trade pending) questionable
Derrick Walton, Jr (trade pending) questionable
Two Way Players
Charlie Brown, Jr
Kemba Walker vs Trae Young
Young is averaging 29.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 44.5% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. One of the keys to this game is to slow down Young, who is very dangerous on the offensive end. He scored 34 points in their last meeting and is always a threat to have a big game.
Jayson Tatum vs John Collins
Collins is playing very well for the Hawks, averaging 19.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.2 assists. He is shooting 56.0% from the field and 35.8% from beyond the arc. In the last game, Collins finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Tatum will need to keep Collins off the boards and out of the paint, especially.
Marcus Smart vs Kevin Huerter
Huerter is averaging 11.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. He is shooting 42.3% from the field and 39.9% from beyond the arc. In the last game against the Celtics, he finished with 23 points, including 5 three pointers. Marcus Smart, or whoever starts at the two, needs to stay with him especially on the perimeter, where he can be dangerous.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to getting a win. The Hawks are averaging 109.5 points per game while the Celtics are averaging 112.7 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 50.4 points in the paint. They are next to 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 45.4 rebounds per game while the Hawks are averaging 43.0 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, especially with all the injuries. Every player that takes the court has to play hard and be aggressive on both ends of the court.
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, which is a tendency for players when there are a lot of injuries. They still have to play team 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, and the number of players who are out, they are capable of beating any team that doesn’t respect them. They recently beat both the 76ers and the Clippers and gave the Celtics all they could handle in the first two games. That should be enough to make the Celtics respect them and come out and play hard.
Home Game - The Celtics are once again at home, where they have played well this season so far. The home crowd should be loud and energized with strong support for the home team. The Hawks are a young team and young teams often get rattled on the road. The Celtics need to take advantage of that and use the motivation from the crowd to get the win.
Injuries - Both teams have a large injury list. Having Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker return to the lineup will help but they are going to miss Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis. The healthy players have to have the next man up attitude and go out and play their hardest. This may be an ugly game with all the injuries but if the Celtics come out and all play hard and together, they should be able to win.
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