The Celtics travel to Atlanta to take on the Atlanta Hawks for the second of 3 games between these two teams this season. In the first match, the Celtics beat the Hawks 126-101, also in Atlanta. The Celtics and Hawks will meet one more time on April 9 at Boston. Last season, they tied the series 2-2 with each team winning twice on their home court.
The Celtics are 2nd in the East. They are 2.5 games behind first place Milwaukee. They are 1.5 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia. and 5 games ahead of 4th place Cleveland. They are 20-12 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 28-16 against Eastern Conference opponents. They had lost 3 straight games before winning their last game.
The Hawks are 8th in the East, 2 games behind 7th place Miami and 4 games behind 6th place Brooklyn. They are 1.5 games ahead of 9th place Toronto and 3 games ahead of 11th place Chicago and out of the play-in. They are 18-13 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 20-22 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have won their last 2 games, both against the Wizards.
This is the second of back to back games for the Hawks. They played on the road against the Wizards on Friday night and had to travel back home for this game. This is the first game back at home for them after a 4 game road trip where they went 2-2. This is the first game of a 3 game home stand for the Hawks that will also include the Minnesota and Golden State.
The Celtics are coming off a home stand where they went 1-2, finally getting a win over Portland in their last home game before heading out on a 6 game road trip. This is the first game of that road trip that will take the Celtics through Houston, Minnesota, Portland, Utah and Sacramento. The Celtics have had 2 days off going into this game.
Payton Pritchard is out with a heel injury and is expected to be out until at least March 15. Robert Williams remains out with a hamstring injury, although he plans to travel with the team. I’m guessing that Derrick White will remain in the starting lineup in his place. Danilo Gallinari remains out with the ACL injury. The Hawks have no players listed on the injury list.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Payton Pritchard (ankle) questionable
Robert Williams III (hamstring) out
2 Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Trae Young
Young averaging 26.7 points per game. He is also averaging 3.0 rebounds, 10.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 43.2% from the field and 32.9% from beyond the arc. The Celtics will have his hands full trying to slow him down and keep him from having a big game.
Derrick White vs DeJounte Murray
Murray is averaging 21.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 46.7% from the field and 36.2% from beyond the arc. The Celtics will need to work hard on both ends of the court to get the better of this matchup.
Jaylen Brown vs De’Andre Hunter
Hunter is averaging 15.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He is shooting 46.5% from the field and 36.3% from beyond the arc. The Celtics will need Jaylen Brown to play well on both ends of the court to win this one.
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 117.2 points per game, which is 6th in the league. The Celtics are 4th, averaging 117.6 points per game. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 110.9 which is 4th while the Hawks have a defensive rating of 114.8, which is 22nd. 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. 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 43.5 rebounds per game (14th) while the Celtics are averaging 45.3 rebounds per game (6th). The Celtics need to aggressively go after every rebound. They can’t afford to give the Hawks extra possessions by allowing them to grab 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 need to play with energy and aggressiveness for 48 minutes in this game with no let up.
Stay Focused - The Celtics need to come in focused and stay focused throughout the game. They need to focus on their shots and shot selection. They need to focus on making their free throws. They need to focus on playing defense and making the right switches. They need to focus on making good passes and not turning the ball over. And they need to focus on sharing the ball and making the right play. Lack of focus results in those horrible shooting nights and high turnover games.
On the Road - The Celtics are playing in the first of 6 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 Celtics have to work even harder to get a win when on the road.
Coaching - The Celtics have a rookie coach who has been doing a good job so far this season. The Hawks just changed coaches and now have a very veteran coach in Quin Snyder, but he has only been coaching the Hawks for a short time. Snyder has led the Hawks to 2 straight wins. Can he do it again in this game?
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 or vice versa. 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.