The Celtics travel to Atlanta to take on the Atlanta Hawks for the first of 3 games between them this season. The Celtics and Hawks will meet again on March 11 in Atlanta and finally on March 9 at Boston. This is the first game of a 3 game road trip for the Celtics. This is the Hawks first game at home after a 2 game road trip. They will play at home on Saturday before heading back out on the road.
These two teams split the series 2-2 last season with each team winning on their home court. Atlanta has won 3 games in a row at home against the Celtics. The Celtics are 243-147 overall all time against the Hawks. They are 87-93 against the Hawks in Atlanta all time. The Celtics have been dominant in the series overall, but have struggled a bit in Atlanta.
The Celtics have the best record in the league right now. The Hawks are 3rd in the East but are coming off a 121-106 win over the 2nd place Bucks in Milwaukee. The Celtics are 5-2 on the road while the Hawks are 5-2 at home. The Hawks are looking for their second straight win while the Celtics are looking to win their 8th straight game.
The Celtics will need to take this team very seriously and will need to play better on both ends of the court than they did against the Thunder. Dating back to January 17, 2022, the Hawks are 24-5 at home. Also, the Hawks have scored over 100 points in their last 35 games, including the first 14 this season. This is the longest active streak of 100+ games in the NBA. They will not be easy to beat in their arena.
Robert Williams III is getting closer to a return but remains out for this game as he rehabs from knee surgery. Danilo Gallinari remains out as he rehabs from a torn ACL. Malcolm Brogdon has missed the last 3 games with hamstring soreness. He was originally listed as questionable for this game but has been ruled out. Marcus Smart was originally listed as probable with ankle inflammation and has also been ruled out for this game. I’m going to guess that Derrick White will start in his place. For the Hawks, Bogdan Bogdanovic is out as he works to return from off season knee surgery.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring) out
Marcus Smart (ankle) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Hawks Starters
2 Way Players
Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) out
Derrick White vs Trae Young
Young is 10th in the league in scoring with 26.9 points per game. He is also averaging 3.2 rebounds and 9.3 per game. He is shooting 37.8% from the field and 30.9% from beyond the arc. He is coming off a 21 point and 9 assist game against the Bucks. I’m guessing that Derrick White will get the start with Marcus Smart ruled out. Whoever starts here will have their hands full trying to slow Young down.
Jaylen Brown vs DeJounte Murray
Murray came over from San Antonio in the off season and brought with him a defensive mindset that has caught on with the Hawks, who have the 8th best defensive rating this season. Murray is averaging 21.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He is shooting 45.3% from the field and 32.1% from beyond the arc. Jaylen Brown will need to work hard on both ends of the court to get the better of this matchup.
Grant Williams vs John Collins
Collins is averaging 12.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game. He is shooting 49.3% from the field and 24.4% from beyond the arc. He is dangerous when he gets into the paint and Grant will need to keep him away from the basket and off the boards.
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 115.6 points per game, which is 10th in the league. The Celtics are first, averaging 120.0 points per game. But the Hawks are a good defensive team and will make scoring tougher for the Celtics. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 112.5 which is 21st while the Hawks have a defensive rating of 110.0, which is 8th. 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 as evidenced by Payton Pritchard’s ability to grab offensive rebounds. 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 46.0 rebounds per game (5th) while the Celtics are averaging 42.1 rebounds per game (23rd). 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.
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. The Celtics allowed the Thunder to be the more aggressive team for 3 quarters and they finally became the more aggressive team in the 4th quarter. The Celtics need to play with energy and aggressiveness for 48 minutes in this game.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics need to keep moving the ball to find the open man and when they do, it makes it much harder to guard them. However, they have to be careful with their passes and not turn the ball over as the Hawks average 18.2 points per game off turnovers. The Celtics also need to be careful when they dribble the ball and not drive into a crowd and turn the ball over.
On the Road - The Celtics are playing in the first of 3 consecutive road games. 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 they have been playing very well at home. 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. In many games this season, they call the game tight in the first half and then loosen up on the calls in the second half. 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. They can’t spend time complaining about calls because the refs have been very quick to call techs for players who complain.