The Celtics begin a 3 game home stand by hosting the Atlanta Hawks. This is the 4th and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Hawks are 2-1 in the series so far with each team winning at home. The Hawks won 110-99 on November 17 in Atlanta and they also won 108-92 on January 28, also in Atlanta. The Celtics won 105-95 on February 13 in Boston. The Celtics are 242-147 overall in the series all time and they are 130-40 all time in games played in Boston.
The Celtics are still 6th in the East. They lost their last game but have won 11 of their last 13 games. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games and they are 20-11 at home. They are 26-16 in games played against other Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are now 5.5 games out of first and 1.5 games behind 4th place Milwaukee. They are 1 game behind 5th place Cleveland and 2.5 games behind 3rd place Philadelphia. The Celtics are 1.5 games ahead of 7th place Toronto and 3.5 games ahead of 8th place Brooklyn. The Celtics can’t depend on these other teams losing. They have to keep winning to be sure that they stay out of the play-in spots.
The Hawks are 10th in the East and are coming off a big 127-100 win over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 11-18 on the road. They are 18-19 against other Eastern Conference teams. the Hawks are half a game ahead of 9th place Charlotte and they are 2 games behind 8th place Brooklyn. They are 5 games out of 6th place and a playoff spot. They are 2 games ahead of 11th place Washington and into the lottery. They are motivated to keep winning so they can stay in play-in range.
The Celtics are coming off a 3 game road trip. They went 2-1 on the trip, beating the Pistons and Nets and losing to the Pacers. This game begins a 3 game home stand where they will host Memphis on Thursday and Brooklyn on Sunday. Atlanta was at home on Saturday and is playing the Celtics on the road in this one. They will play at home again on Thursday before heading out on a 3 game road trip through Washington, Detroit, and Milwaukee.
The Celtics once again have no one listed on the injury list. Al Horford missed Saturday’s game for rest but should be ready to go for this one. The Hawks have two players on the injury list. John Collins, who missed the last Hawks game in Boston, is doubtful for this game with a strained right foot. He has missed the last 5 games and has not been able to practice with any intensity as yet. Lou Williams has been ruled out for this game with hip discomfort. This will be his second straight game missed.
Probable Celtics Starters
Probable Hawks Starters
Kevin Knox II
John Collins (foot) doubtful
Lou Williams (hip) out
Two Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Trae Young
Young is averaging 27.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 45.7% from the field and 37.8% from beyond the arc. He is coming off a 41 point game against the Raptors where he shot 70% from the field. 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 12.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. He is shooting 44.0% from the field and 37.9% from beyond the arc. He is a good defender and will make it difficult for Jayson to get good shots. Jayson is coming off a game where he was 7-22 from the field and 2-12 from beyond the arc. If he struggles to score, hopefully he will look to pass to open teammates rather than force up tough shots. Jayson needs to play well on both ends of the court to win this matchup.
Robert Williams III vs Clint Capela
Capela is averaging 10.7 points, 12.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. He is shooting 59.0% 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 change and 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 112.4 points per game, which is 9th in the league. The Celtics are 17th, averaging 109.2 points per game. The Celtics need to play tough team defense if they want to win. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 105.3 which is 2nd while the Hawks have a defensive rating of 113.1, which is 26th. Against the Pacers, the Celtics allowed a team that normally shoots 33.5% on 3’s to shoot 51.5% on 3’s. The Celtics can’t take games off on defense. Defense must be their identity and their priority if the hope to win this game.
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 46.4 rebounds per game (3rd). The Celtics need to aggressively go after every rebound. The Celtics were out-rebounded 49-40 by the Pacers and that should not happen. 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, and Delon Wright 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. the Celtics need to use their bench more to keep the starters from burning out before the playoffs.
Effort and Focus - The Celtics lacked both on Sunday vs the Pacers. They lacked defensive effort, which showed in the Pacers 52.2% field goal percentage and their 51.5% 3 point percentage. They also lacked effort on the boards which showed in the 49-40 rebound advantage for the Pacers. The Celtics lacked focus in that they shot just 27.9% from beyond the arc and they missed quite a few wide open shots. They need to come into this game focused on playing the right way and on hitting their shots and on playing tough lock down defense.
Be Aggressive - On Sunday, the Celtics allowed the very physical Pacers to push them around and to be the more aggressive team. The Celtics ended up retaliating on a lot of plays rather than being the team that was more aggressive. The Celtics need to be more aggressive on defense, in going for loose balls and 50-50 plays. They need to be more aggressive in going to the basket and not settle for outside shots, especially if they aren’t falling. They have to be the team that plays harder and that wants the win more.
Home Game and Celtics Pride - The Celtics are at home for this game. This is the Celtics first home game since the All Star break and the Celtics need to come out with the mindset that they have to take care of home. The Hawks are just 11-18 on the road and will have to fight through the distractions of travel and a hopefully 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 allowed the officiating to mess up their focus against the Pacers. They spent way too much time complaining about calls. 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.