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Atlanta Hawks (41-40) at Boston Celtics (56-25) Game #82 4/9/23

The Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks face off in the final game of the season.

Boston Celtics v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We have come to the final game of the regular season between the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics. This is the 3rd and final meeting between these two teams. The Celtics won the first meeting 126-101 at Atlanta on November 16. The Celtics also won the second meeting 134-125 also at Atlanta on March 11. The Celtics are 245-147 all time overall against the Hawks. They are 131-40 all time in games played in Boston.

These two teams are at opposite ends of the seedings. The Celtics may see these Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. The Celtics are locked into the 2nd seed and will face the winner of the 7/8 play-in game. The Hawks will face the Miami Heat in that game for the privilege of playing the Celtics in the first round. The loser of that game will then play the winner of the 9/10 play-in game for the 8th spot in the playoffs. Last season, the Hawks were 9th entering the play-in and beat both Charlotte and Cleveland to make the playoffs.

The Celtics are 2nd in the East, currently 2 games behind first place Milwaukee and 3 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia. More importantly, the Celtics finished ahead of every team in the West and so would have home court advantage should they make it to the Finals. The Celtics are 31-9 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 33-18 against Eastern Conference teams. They won their last 2 games.

The Hawks are 8th in the East and will play the Heat on Tuesday night for the 7th spot in the playoffs. Should they lose that game they will play either Chicago or Toronto, whichever team wins the 9/10 play-in game for the 8th spot in the playoffs. The Hawks are 17-23 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 26-25 against Eastern Conference teams. They had won 3 straight games before losing to the 76ers on Friday.

At this point, I’m assuming that all Celtics who are questionable will not play. Jayson Tatum (hip), Robert Williams (knee), and Marcus Smart (neck) are all questionable. Al Horford (back), Jaylen Brown (finger), and Danilo Gallinari (knee) are listed as out. I put the names in a hat and picked a possible starting lineup for both teams. There weren’t all that many players available. Derrick White should play and it will be his 82nd game this season and he will be the only Celtic to play in every game.

For the Hawks, it appears as though they are sitting all their starters and 6th man to rest up for Tuesday’s play-in game. De’Andre Hunter (knee) is listed as probable and is the only starter who may play. Tre Young (groin), Dejounte Murray (ankle), John Collins (back), Clint Capela (calf) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) are all listed as out. Again, I just guessed at which players may possibly start in this game.

Possible Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Malcolm Brogdon
Luke Kornet
Mike Muscala
Justin Champagnie

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) questionable
Jayson Tatum (hip) questionable
Marcus Smart (neck) questionable
Al Horford (back) out
Jaylen Brown (finger) out

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Possible Hawks Starters

Hawks Reserves
Bruno Fernando
Vit Krejci
Tyrese Martin
Garrison Matthews

2 Way Players
Trent Forrest
Donovan Williams

De’Andre Hunter (knee) probable
Dejounte Murray (ankle) out
John Collins (back) out
Tre Young (groin) out
Clint Capela (calf) out
Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) out

Head Coach
Quin Snyder

Key Matchups

Sam Hauser vs Saddiq Bey
Bey is averaging 13.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. He is shooting 42.2% from the field and 36.1% from beyond the arc. Against Boston this season, he averaged 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He shot 36.7% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc against them this season. Sam Hauser is coming off a season high in points against the Raptors and hopefully will have another good game in this one.

Blake Griffin vs Onyeka Okongwu
Okongwu is averaging 9.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game. He is shooting 63.9% from the field and 21.4% from beyond the arc for the season. Against Boston this season, he averaged 6.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. He shot 62.5% from the field but didn’t take any 3 pointers. It’s just a guess that Blake Griffin will get the start at center.

Honorable Mention
Derrick White vs AJ Griffin
Griffin is averaging 8.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game. He is shooting 46.7% from the field and 39.4% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this season he averaged 4 points, 3 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game. He shot 23.1% from the field and didn’t shoot any 3 pointers against them.

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 118.5 points per game, which is 2nd in the league. The Celtics are 4th, averaging 117.9 points per game. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 110.5 which is 2nd while the Hawks have a defensive rating of 115.3, 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 44.3 rebounds per game (10th) while the Celtics are averaging 45.3 rebounds per game (7th). 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.

Depth - Since both teams are basically sitting their starters, it will come down to which team is deeper. Both teams will be playing basically 7-17 players on their rosters. Which team has the deeper roster? We should find out in this game.

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. Which coach can make the right moves to get their reserves to fight through for the win.

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. There likely won’t be any star calls in this one at least. 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.

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