The Celtics complete their 3 game road trip in Atlanta as they take on the Hawks for the first of 4 games between these two teams this season. They will meet one more time in Atlanta on January 28 and twice in Boston on February 13 and March 1. Atlanta is playing in the third game of a 5 game home stand. The Celtics are 241-145 all time and 87-91 in Atlanta.
The Hawks have won their last two games. They beat the Bucks by 20 on Sunday and then Orlando by 18 on Monday. That was their first back to back wins this season. They have a 12 game win streak at home over Eastern Conference teams and will look to keep that going with a win in this game. Over those 12 games, they averaged 118.1 points per game.
The Celtics are 9th in the East and are 5-4 on the road. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and are looking to win their second straight game. They have won 3 of their last 4 games. The Hawks are 12th in the East and are 3-7 in their last 10 games. They have played very well at home winning 5 out of 6 games on their home court. They are looking for their 3rd straight win.
I’m not at all sure about the starting lineups. For the Celtics Jaylen Brown is out once again. Robert Williams was downgraded to out after leaving Monday’s game with soreness in his knee. I expect Al Horford to move over to center and Grant Williams to start once again at power forward. That’s just a guess, though.
For the Hawks, Bogdan Bogdanovic is questionable with a sore ankle. He has been listed at questionable for the past 3 Hawks game but has played in each. Kevin Huerter started in place of De’Andre Hunter on Monday but he left the game with a sore hamstring. He is questionable for this one. Hill or Reddish may start if he can’t. De’ Andre Hunter is out after surgery on his wrist. Onyeka Okongwu is out after shoulder surgery.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) out
Bruno Fernando (G-League) out
Rob Williams (knee) out
Brodric Thomas (shoulder) questionable
Probable Hawks Starters
Kevin Huerter (hamstring) questionable
DeAndre Hunter (wrist) out
Onyeka Okongwu (shoulder) out
Bogdan Bogdanovic (ankle) questionable
Two Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Trae Young
Young is averaging 25.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 9.1 assists per game. He is shooting 45.1% from the field and 30.6% from beyond the arc. In their last meeting in February of last seasong, Young scored 33 points to lead Atlanta to a win. If he gets going, he can be a real problem. The Celtics need to limit his looks at the basket in this one.
Grant Williams vs John Collins
Collins is averaging 16.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. He is shooting 56.3% from the field and 37.2% from beyond the arc. Horford will likely move up to center. Grant Williams would likely start at power forward. It’s also possible that Jayson Tatum will move up to power forward and he will start someone else at small forward.
Dennis Schroder vs Bogdan Bogdanovic
Bogdanovic is averaging 12.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. He is shooting 45.5% from the field and 39.0% from beyond the arc. Bogdanovic has been questionable for the last 3 Hawks games but has played in each of them. If he can’t play in this game, Hill or Redish may get the start.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning games. Defense is especially important for the Celtics who have been struggling with their offense. The Celtics need to play tough team defense if they want to win. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 104.1 which is 10th. The Hawks have a defensive rating of 109.9, which is 27th. The Celtics must make defense a priority in this game and they have to play that tough defense for 48 minutes and not let up.
Rebound - Next to defense, rebounding is a key to winning. Much of rebounding is effort and desire and when the Celtics put out the extra effort on the boards, it usually carries through to the rest of their game. The Hawks are averaging 46.7 rebounds per game while the Celtics are averaging 46.1 rebounds per game. The Celtics need to aggressively go after every rebound. They can’t afford to give the Hawks extra possessions by allowing them to grab rebounds.
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 they have had the tendency to do. They have to play team ball.
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. Too often the Celtics allow teams to play with more energy and effort and be more aggressive and by doing so, they lose games they should win.
Bench Play - The Hawks have players coming off the bench that can be very dangerous if not defended will. In the last meeting between these two teams, Gallinari hit a franchise record of 10 three pointers (10-12) and he is always capable of having a big game. Also, Lou Williams has had some very big games against the Celtics and the Celtics must defend him well.
On the Road - The Celtics are playing in the final game of a 3 game road trip. The last game of a road trip is always a tough one. The Celtics have to focus on playing their game and not be distracted by playing on the road and on travel and on the hostile crowd. The Hawks have been playing well at home and the Celtics have to work even harder to get a win there.
Injuries - With so many players from both teams questionable, whether they play or not can make a big difference for both teams. The Celtics will once again miss Jaylen Brown but if Rob can’t play, that will definitely be a problem for them. The same is true of Huerter and Bogdanovic for the Hawks.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game a little differently with some calling it tight and others letting them play. They are not awarding free throws like they did in the past and that is frustrating many offensive players. Teams should already be getting used to that. The Celtics have to adjust to how the game is being called and focus on the game and not on the calls.