The Celtics complete their 3 game road trip with their 3rd game against the Atlanta Hawks in one week’s time. They split the two games they played last week at the TD Garden, losing the first 122-114 on Wednesday and winning the second 121-109 two days later. The loss came on the second night of back to back games for Boston.
The Celtics have dropped to 6th in the East, 5.5 games behind 1st place Philadelphia and only half a game ahead of 9th place. They are 3-7 in their last 10 games and 7-11 on the road. They are looking to end a 2 game losing streak. Atlanta is 11th in the East and just 1.5 games out of 8th place. They are 3-7 in their last 10 games and 7-9 on the road.
This game comes on the second night of back to back games for both teams. The Hawks lost at Cleveland on Tuesday night and had to travel back home afterwards. The Hawks are 0-5 on the second night of back to back games. The Celtics lost to Dallas on Tuesday night and also had to travel to Atlanta. The Celtics are 3-3 on the second night of back to back games with 1 game having been postponed.
The Celtics continue to be without Marcus Smart (calf) and Romeo Langford (wrist), who aren’t expected back until after the All Star break. Kemba Walker will likely also miss this one for rest. The last time he sat out, Brad started Javonte Green and that didn’t seem to work out well. I think Payton Pritchard is a better choice but who knows who Brad will choose to start in this one.
Rajon Rondo missed the first two games in Boston, but it looks like he will be available for this game. Kris Dunn (knee), DeAndre Hunter (knee) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) are all out. Cam REddish is doubtful with an Achilles injury. John Collins was hit in the head in Tuesday’s game and is being monitored for concussion symptoms and is listed as a game time decision.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Marcus Smart (calf) out
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Kemba Walker (rest) out
Probable Hawks Starters
Bogdan Bogdanovic (ankle) out
Kris Dunn (ankle) out
De’Andre Hunter (knee) out
Cam Reddish (Achilles) doubtful
John Collins (concussion) questionable
Payton Pritchard vs Trae Young
Kemba will likely sit this one out and I’m just making a guess that Pritchard will get the start. Trae Young is averaging 26.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 9.5 assists. He is shooting 44% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. He scored 40 points along with 8 assists in Wednesday’s game and 31 points and 11 assists in Friday’s game. No matter who starts at PG for the Celtics, they simply must slow him down. They sure could use Marcus Smart for this game.
Tristan Thompson vs Clint Capela
Assuming that Brad continues to start the double big lineup, Thompson will be tasked with slowing Capela down in this one. Capela is averaging 14.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game. He scored 24 points in both contests last week and pulled down 13 and 16 rebounds in them. Keeping him off the boards and out of the paint is important in this game.
Daniel Theis vs John Collins
Collins is averaging 17.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 blocks per game. In the two games last week, he averaged 14 points, and 4.5 rebounds. He is capable of putting up big numbers so the Celtics need to continue to defend him well.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Hawks, who had been struggling, but then had their best game of the season against the Celtics on Wednesday, putting up 122 points. The Celtics have to make defense a priority and not let up on the effort necessary to get stops. Their lax defense has allowed too many struggling teams to have their best game of the season and that has to stop if the Celtics expect to be anything other than a mediocre team.
Rebound - Rebounding gives the Celtics extra possessions and it also deprives the Hawks of the same. Rebounding takes effort and energy and when the Celtics put out that extra effort to win the battle of the boards, it usually translates to the rest of their game.
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.
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 recently. They have to play team ball.
Back to Back on the Road - The Celtics are playing in the final game of a road trip and that is usually the hardest of the trip as the team is ready to be done with the trip and go home. This is also the second night of back to back games for both teams. Which team will have more focus and be able to overcome the distractions?
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.