The Celtics look to win their 8th straight game as they host the Atlanta Hawks for an afternoon game. This is the 3rd of 4 games between these two teams this season. The Hawks are 2-0 against the Celtics so far, winning 110-99 on November 17 and 108-92 on January 28 with both games played in Atlanta. They will meet one more time after this game on March 1 in Boston.
In the November 17th game, the Celtics were missing Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams while the Hawks were without De’Andre Hunter and Onyeka Okongwu. In that game, the Celtics shot just 11 of 41 for 26.8% from beyond the arc while the Celtics allowed the Hawks to shoot 50.6% from the field and 35.1% on threes. In the January 28 game, both teams were at full strength. The Celtics shot just 7-36 or 19.4% from beyond the arc and 34.9% from the field while allowing the Hawks to shoot 46.1% from the field and 38.7% on 3’s.
The Celtics remain in 7th place in the East. They are 19-10 at home and 9-1 in their last 10 games. They are 22-14 against other Eastern Conference teams. They are tied with 6th place Toronto, who lost to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, the same Nuggets that the Celtics beat the night before. They are 2.5 behind 5th place Philadelphia and 3 games behind both Cleveland (3rd) and Milwaukee (4th). They are 5 games out of first place.
The Hawks are in 10th place, the final play in spot, in the East. They are 10-16 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 15-17 against other Eastern Conference teams. They are 1.5 games behind 9th place Charlotte and 5 games behind 7th place Boston and 6th place Toronto. They are 1 game ahead of 11th place Washington and 2 games ahead of 12th place New York.
The Hawks are on the road for this game against the Celtics in between two home games vs the Spurs on Friday and the Cavs on Tuesday before going on the road again to Orlando on Wednesday. The Celtics are playing in the second game at home, beating the Nuggets at home on Friday. They will head to Philadelphia for a game on Tuesday and then home against the Pistons on Wednesday. They will then have a week off for the All Star break before going on a 3 game road trip.
The Celtics made several trades at the trade deadline, sending Schroder, Richardson, Fernando, Langford, Freedom, Bol, and Dozier out while bringing in Derrick White and Daniel Theis. They also converted Sam Hauser from a 2 way contract to a regular contract for the rest of the season and signed Luke Kornet for the rest of the season. I expect both to be in uniform for this game. Derrick White played on Friday and should also play in this game. Daniel Theis wasn’t cleared for Friday’s game and is listed as questionable for this game at this time.
The Hawks stood pat at the trade deadline with no players going out or coming in. John Collins left Friday’s game with a sore heel and was unable to practice on Saturday. He has been ruled out for this game. He had big games in both of the first two meetings between these teams. Trae Young has been playing through hip soreness and is listed as probable for this game. Delon Wright is also probable with hip discomfort. Jalen Johnson is questionable with a lower body injury. The status of all three is a game time decision.
Probable Starting Matchups
Daniel Theis (not injury related) questionable
Probable Hawks Starters
Kevin Knox II
John Collins (heel) out
Trae Young (hip) probable
Delon Wright (hip) probable
Jalen Johnson (lower body) questionable
Two Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Trae Young
Young is averaging 27.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 9.4 assists per game. He is shooting 45.7% from the field and 37.6% from beyond the arc. He averaged 19.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 8 assists and 1 steal in the first two games against the Celtics. He is by far the Hawks best player and slowing him down will go a long way toward getting a win in this game.
Jayson Tatum vs De’Andre Hunter
Hunter is averaging 12.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. He is shooting 45.3% from the field and 38.9% from beyond the arc. He missed the first game between these two teams and had 9 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in the second game. He is a good defender and in the game he played, Jayson Tatum shot just 29.4% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc. Jayson needs to play well on both ends of the court to win this matchup.
Robert Williams III vs Clint Capela
Capela is averaging 10.9 points, 12.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 blocks per game. He is shooting 58.6% from the field and isn’t a threat to shoot threes. The Celtics need to keep him off the boards and they need to be aware of his presence in the paint as he is a threat to block shots.
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 112.0 points per game, which is 8th in the league. The Celtics are 18th, averaging 108.4 points per game. The Celtics need to play tough team defense if they want to win. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 105.1 which is 2nd while the Hawks have a defensive rating of 113.4, which is 27th. In the first two games between these two teams, the Hawks were the team to play better defense while the Celtics struggled on both ends. The Celtics need to continue their recent trend of playing tough lock down defense.
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 (19th) while the Celtics are averaging 46.7 rebounds per game (2nd). The Celtics need to aggressively go after every rebound. They can’t afford to give the Hawks extra possessions by allowing them to beat them to rebounds.
Bench Play - The Hawks have players coming off the bench that can be very dangerous if not defended well. In a January win over the Kings, the Hawks bench had 70 points. They have players like Bogdanovic, Okongwu, Lou Williams, and Bogdanovic who are all capable of putting up big numbers if they are left open. The Celtics players coming off the bench need to up their game on both ends of the court. Having White and possibly Theis should help in that area.
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, in closing out the passing lanes, and in going after rebounds. Too often in the past, the Celtics have allowed 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 have been seeing in their 7 game win streak.
Home Game and Celtics Pride - The Celtics are at home for this game after playing the first two in Atlanta. The Hawks are just 10-16 on the road and will have to fight through the distractions of travel and a hostile arena. The Celtics also have to remember that the Hawks beat them twice already this season and they need to avenge those two losses and play for pride and not allow a sub .500 team win the season series.
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.