The Celtics continue their seven-game homestand Wednesday night, when they welcome Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks to town.
Boston (38-12) has won three of four and Atlanta (22-28) four of five. Here are three things to look for in what has a chance to be a first-round preview.
Back in the win column in dominant fashion pic.twitter.com/Idbbhabw2q— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 5, 2024
Will Jayson Tatum’s streak move to eight games?
Which streak is that, you ask? Tatum has led the Celtics in scoring in seven straight games – his longest such streak since the 2021-22 season. He’s averaged 28.7 a night during that span and has looked like the dynamic All-Star starter that he is.
Will he keep rolling, or will someone else carry the load Wednesday night? My guess is Jaylen Brown will lead the way after shooting just 4-of-12 against the Lakers and missing Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies.
Don’t be surprised if Kristaps Porzingis also feasts on the Hawks’ bigs. This is a well below-average defensive team, so its not hard to envision Tatum, Brown and Porzingis all scoring 20-plus.
Which pace prevails?
As of Tuesday afternoon, Atlanta is fourth in the NBA in pace and Boston is 18th.
The Hawks have scored 140-plus in each of their last two games. They want the action to be fast and frenetic. I’m sure coach Quin Snyder would prefer a tad more defense, but their general style is an up-and-down, free-flowing one.
The Celtics will benefit if this game is in the 100s or 110s. Boston has won five straight head-to-head matchups and has held Atlanta to an average of 106.6 in those meetings. When the Hawks won three straight before that, they averaged 115 per contest.
This is a good mental challenge for the Celtics, to avoid falling for Atlanta’s trap and to play the game in their own way.
Young is averaging 30.7 points, 11 assists and 2 steals, while shooting 61.5 percent from the floor and 58.6 percent from 3, over three games in February. Containing him is priority No. 1.
Does the extra rest have any effect?
The Celtics played played 16 games over 28 days from Jan. 5-Feb. 1. They finally had a three-day gap between the Lakers and Grizzlies games, and now they’ve had the same before this one.
Will they look fresh and energized or slightly rusty? It’s only three days, but it is human nature to let it affect you slightly. Great teams find a way to ignore such pitfalls and turn them into advantages.