The Celtics and Hawks meet for the 2nd of 4 meetings between these two games this season. The Hawks won the first game 110-99 in Atlanta on November 17. The Celtics were without Robert Williams and Jaylen Brown in that game while the Hawks were without De’Andre Hunter and Onyeka Okongwu. These two teams will meet again on February 13 and March 1, with both games in Boston. For the Hawks, the November win was the 3rd win of a 7 game win streak.
Atlanta win the series 2-1 last season. The Celtics are 238-145 all time against the Hawks and 111-101 when playing in Atlanta. The Celtics have had 2 days off after their last game on Tuesday while the Hawks last played on Wednesday. This is the 2nd of a 5 game home stand for the Hawks. They won the first game against the Hornets and have the Lakers, Raptors and Suns coming up to complete the home stand. The Celtics are playing in the first of back to back games on the road and will head to New Orleans after this game. They will then have 2 straight games at home. The Celtics are 4-5 on the first night of back to back games and 2-2 when the first game is on the road.
The Celtics are 8th in the East and have won their last 2 games. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 9-14 on the road. They are 17-13 against Eastern Conference teams. They are 2 games behind 7th place Charlotte and 4 games behind 6th place Philadelphia. They are half a game ahead of the 9th place Raptors and 1.5 games ahead of the 10 place Wizards and they are 2 games ahead of the 11th place Knicks.
The Atlanta Hawks are 12th in the East and have won their last 5 games after losing the previous 5 games. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 12-11 at home. They are 13-15 against other Eastern Conference teams. They are tied with the 11th place Knicks who own the tie breaker between them. They are half a game behind 10th place Washington and 8 games ahead of 13th place Indiana.
The Celtics are mostly healthy with only their two newest players who have yet to play with the team out. Bol Bol is out after having surgery on his foot but is with the team and trying to soak up all he can about the way the Celtics play and do things. PJ Dozier is out after tearing his ACL in November and is rehabbing away from the team. For the Hawks, De’Andre Bembry (back) and Danilo Gallinari (eye) are both questionable.
Probable Celtics Starters
Bol Bol (foot) out
PJ Dozier (knee) out
Probable Hawks Starters
Kevin Knox II
De’Andre Hunter (back) questionable
Danilo Gallinari (eye) questionable
Two Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Trae Young
Young is 5th in the league in scoring with 27.7 points per game. He is also averaging 4.0 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 45.5% from the field and 38.0% from beyond the arc. He had 18 points and 11 assists in his first game against the Celtics. Marcus Smart will have his hands full trying to slow him down and keep him from having a big game.
Al Horford vs John Collins
Collins is rumored to be available in trade for the Hawks and the Celtics have been rumored to be interested. He is averaging 17.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 blocks. He is shooting 53.7% from the field and 42.6% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to stay with him both inside and on the perimeter as he is a danger to score from both. He had 20 points and 11 rebounds in November’s game between these two teams.
Robert Williams III vs Clint Capela
Capela is averaging 11.5 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. He is shooting 57.0% from the field and has not made any three pointers this season. The Celtics were without Robert Williams in the first game and really missed his inside presence.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning games. Defense is especially important for the Celtics in this game because the Hawks are a good scoring team, averaging 111.4 points per game, which is 7th in the league. The Celtics are 19th, averaging 108.0 points per game. The Celtics need to play tough team defense if they want to win. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 106.4 which is 4th while the Hawks have a defensive rating of 113.2, 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 44.4 rebounds per game while the Celtics are averaging 46.2 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 more rebounds.
Bench Play - The Hawks have players coming off the bench that can be very dangerous if not defended well. In their last game, a win over the Kings, The Hawks bench had 70 points. They have players like Bogdanovic, Okongwu, Lou Williams, and Gallinari who are all capable of putting up big numbers if not defended well. The Celtics players coming off the bench need to up their game on both ends of the court.
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 in the past, the Celtics allow teams to play with more energy and effort and by doing so, they lose games they should win. The Celtics need to play with the energy and aggressiveness that we saw in their last two games.
On the Road - The Celtics are playing in the first of back to back games on the road. 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 and are at home and the Celtics have to work even harder to get a win there.
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. Some refs just make head scratching calls while others try very hard to get them right. The Celtics have to adjust to how the game is being called and focus on playing the game and not on the bad calls or no calls.