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Atlanta Hawks (22-28) at Boston Celtics (38-12) Game #51 2/7/24

The Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks for the 2nd of 4 meetings this season.

Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images

The Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks for the second of 4 meetings this season. The Celtics won the first game 113-103 in Boston on November 26. They will meet twice more in Atlanta on March 25 and March 28. Boston won the series 3-0 last season, winning twice in Atlanta and once in Boston. The Celtics also beat them 4 games to 2 in the first round of the playoffs last season.

The Celtics remain 1st in the East. They are 5 games ahead of 2nd place Cleveland, 5 games ahead of 3rd place Milwaukee, 5.5 games ahead of 4th place New York, 7.5 games ahead of 5th place Philadelphia, and 10 games ahead of 6th place Indiana. Milwaukee is still playing as I write this so their position may change. The Celtics are 23-3 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 25-6 against Eastern Conference teams and they are coming off a win in their last game.

the Hawks are 10th in the East, 1 game behind 9th place Chicago, 4 games behind 8th place Miami and 5.5 games behind 6th place Indiana and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. They are 1.5 games ahead of 11th place Brooklyn and dropping out of play-in position. They are 10-14 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 13-20 against Eastern Conference teams and are coming off a loss in their last game.

The Celtics are playing in the 6th game of a 7 game home stand. They are 3-2 so far on the home stand, losing to the Lakers and Clippers and beating New Orleans, Indians and Memphis. They have one more game on this home stand against the Wizards before a game on the road against Miami and then a back to back home and home series against the Nets.

The Hawks are coming off a 6 game home stand where they went 4-2, beating Toronto, the Lakers, Phoenix, and Golden State and lost to the Clippers and Mavericks. This is the first of 2 consecutive road games for them and they will play at Philadelphia after this game. Then they have 2 games at home against Houston and Chicago before playing at Charlotte and then a 3 game home stand.

Jrue Holiday was listed as questionable for this game with a right elbow sprain. He has been downgraded to out. I would guess that Derrick White will move to the point and either Sam Hauser or Al Horford will get the start in his place. Jaylen Brown is no longer listed on the injury report. The Celtics have traded for Xavier Tillman but I doubt that he will be able to play in this game. Lamar Stevens is also heading to Memphis in the deal for Tillman.

For the Hawks, Clint Capela was diagnosed with a left adductor strain following an MRI on Sunday and will miss this game and will be re-evaluated in 7-to-10 days. Mouhamed Gueye is rehabbing from a back injury and is listed as out for this game. De’Andre Hunter is listed as probable for this game. He has been coming off the bench and playing through knee soreness. Coming off one of his best games of the season, it’s possible that Hunter will return to the starting lineup in place of Saddiq Bey.

Dejounte Murray was originally questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Celtics due to lower back tightness. He is a late scratch and is now listed as out. I’m guessing that Bogdan Bogdanovic is likely to get the start in his place.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Delano Banton
Oshae Brissett
Al Horford
Luke Kornet
Svi Mykhailiuk
Payton Pritchard
Jordan Walsh

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Drew Peterson
Neemias Queta

Injuries/Out
Jrue Holiday (elbow) questionable
Xavier Tillman (trade) doubtful

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Hawks Starters

Hawks Reserves
Kobe Bufkin
Bruno Fernando
AJ Griffin
De’Andre Hunter
Garrison Matthews
Wesley Matthews
Patty Mills

2 Way Players
Trent Forrest
Seth Lundy
Vit Krejci

Injuries/Out
Mouhammed Gueye (back) out
Clint Capela (thigh) out
Dejounte Murray (back) out
De’Andre Hunter (knee) probable

Head Coach
Quin Snyder

Key Matchups

Jrue Holiday vs Trae Young
Young is averaging 27.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 10.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 43.5% from the field and 38.4% from beyond the arc. In the first game against Boston, he finished with 33 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists while shooting 44.4% from the field and 37.5% from beyond the arc. I’m hoping that Jrue can play, but if not, Derrick White should be matched up with Young at the point. The Celtics will have their hands full trying to slow him down and keep him from having a big game.

Derrick White vs DeJounte Murray
Murray is averaging 21.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 46.6% from the field and 37.3% from beyond the arc. Murray is also one of the Hawks best defenders. In the first game against the Celtics, he finished with 6 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He shot just 15.4% from the field and didn’t shoot a 3. Once again, if Jrue Holiday is out, Jaylen Brown will likely be the shooting guard for the Celtics. The Celtics will need to work hard on both ends of the court to get the better of this matchup.

Honorable Mention
Jayson Tatum vs Jalen Johnson
Johnson is averaging 15.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 52.4% from the field and 36.7% from beyond the arc. He didn’t play against the Celtics in the first game between these two teams. The Celtics need to keep Johnson off the boards as he is one of the better rebounders on the team.

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 121.6 points per game, which is 3rd in the league. The Celtics are 5th, averaging 120.3 points per game. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 110.6 which is 3rd while the Hawks have a defensive rating of 120.0, which is 27th. 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 44.9 rebounds per game (8th) while the Celtics are averaging 47.5 rebounds per game (1st). The Hawks are 3rd with 16.1 second chance points per game. The Celtics need to aggressively go after every rebound. They can’t afford to give the Hawks extra possessions and 2nd chance points by allowing them to grab rebounds.

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 as the Hawks average 17.5 points off turnovers per game. 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 and they can’t afford either of those in this game.

Energy and Physicality - The Celtics lost to the Lakers, who were short handed, but they played harder than the Celtics. The Celtics have to be the team that plays harder and with more energy. They need to be more physical to counter the physicality of their opponents. The Celtics have talent, but they can’t afford to allow teams to play harder and with more energy than them, even teams with a losing record like the Hawks.

X-Factors
Home Court- They call it home court advantage for a reason and the Celtics need to take advantage of playing on their home court. The Celtics need to get motivation from the home crowd, which should be loud and doing everything in their power to support the Celtics and rattle the Hawks. The Hawks have the distractions of travel and an unfamiliar arena and a hostile crowd and hopefully that will give the Celtics an advantage.

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. Sometimes they are tech crazy for every little thing. In some games they call the 2 halves completely differently. The Celtics have to adjust to how the game is being called and focus on playing the game and not on the officiating.

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