at Boston Celtics (0-0) at Atlanta Hawks (0-0)
Sunday, April 29, 2012
7:00 PM ET
Round 1, Game #1, Road Game #1
TV: TNT, CSNNE
Philips ArenaProbable Starters Point Guard:
Rajon Rondo 6'1"
11.9 PPG, 11.7 APG, 4.8 RPG, PER 17.55Shooting Guard:
Avery Bradley 6'2"
7.6 PPG, 1.4 APG, 1.8 RPG, PER 11.31Small Forward:
Paul Pierce 6'7"
19.4 PPG, 4.5 APG, 5.2 RPG PER 19.69Power Forward:
Brandon Bass 6'8"
12.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.9 BPG, PER 14.21Center:
Kevin Garnett 6'11"
15.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.0 BPG, PER 20.47Celtics Reserves
Ray Allen (ankle) day to day
Greg Stiemsma (feet) probable
Probable StartersPoint Guard:
Jeff Teague 6'2"
12.6 PPG, 4.9 APG, 2.4 RPG, PER 15.83Shooting Guard:
Kirk Hinrich 6'4"
6.6 PPG, 2.8 APG, 2.1 RPG, PER 9.28Small Forward:
Joe Johnson 6'7"
18.8 PPG, 3.9 APG, 3.7 RPG, 18.50 PERPower Forward:
Josh Smith 6'9"
18.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.7 BPG, PER 21.14Center
Jason Collins 7'0"
1.3 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.1 BPG PER 3.76 Hawks Reserves
Marvin Williams Injuries
Zaza Pachulia (foot) day to day
Al Horford (pectoral) out
Team Season Stats Points per Game
Celtics 91.8..............Hawks 96.6Rebounds per Game
Celtics 38.8..............Hawks 41.2 Assists per Game
Celtics 23.6..............Hawks 22.4 Field Goal Percentage
Celtics 46.0%...........Hawks 45.4%Free Throw Percentage
Celtics 77.8%...........Hawks 74.0%3 Point Percentage
Celtics 36.7%...........Hawks 37.0%Game Notes
These two teams met 3 times in the regular season with the Celtics winning once in Boston and once in Atlanta and the Hawks winning the final game in Atlanta. The first two games were decided by a total of 5 points, including one overtime game. The Hawks won the 3rd game by 5, but it was basically the Celtics 2nd and 3rd units versus the Hawks starters and they almost pulled it off.
The Celtics basically conceded home court to the Hawks when they rested their starters in the final meeting between these two teams. It came down to the final game of the season even with that. But the message to the Hawks was clear, the Celtics felt they could beat the Hawks without home court. And part two of the message was that the Celtics reserves were strong enough to compete with their starters.
Doc rested his starters down the stretch and played them sparingly in the final game of the season. The Hawks starters, on the other hand, continued to play big minutes every game right until the end as they tried to gain the home court in the first round. This could make a difference as this series continues.
This series will not be easy by any stretch but I have to feel that the Celtics have the advantage in a 7 game series. I see this going 6 games with the Celtics closing out the series at home in game 6. Key Matchups
Paul Pierce vs Joe Johnson
The offense on the Hawks goes through Johnson and one of the keys to stopping the Hawks is to stop Johnson. Hopefully Pierce's defense on Johnson won't take away from his offense because the Celtics will need his points as well as his ability to play Johnson on the defensive end. Mickael Pietrus or Sasha Pavlovic may also get a shot at guarding Johnson. However they do it, the Celtics must slow Johnson down.
Brandon Bass vs Josh Smith
Smith is the Hawks second option on offense and he is their top rebounder. Stopping Smith's offense is only half the problem, keeping him away from the basket and not allowing him to get rebounds and tip ins is also key in defeating the Hawks. Bass will have his hands full slowing Smith down but doing so will be key to getting a win.
Doc Rivers vs Larry Drew
In the playoffs, coaching becomes more important. Not only does the coach have to make in game adjustments but they also need to make adjustments from one game to the next. This is one of Doc's strengths and Drew has yet to prove he is up to the task. Honorable Mention
Rajon Rondo vs Jeff Teague
As with every game, as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. Rondo needs to set the tempo of the game. He also needs to take apart their defenses and make the offense work. As always, he has the toughest job on the court. And as always, I expect him to excel.
Avery Bradley vs Kirk Hinrich
Hinrich is one of the weaker links in the Hawks' starting lineup. Avery should be able to beat him up the floor just about every time. If Teague gets hot we may see Rondo switch onto Hinrich and Avery cover Teague.
Kevin Garnett vs Jason Collins
KG has been playing inspired basketball. He was able to get some rest down the stretch for a troublesome hip flexor. Hopefully it was enough to get him completely healthy. With Horford out and Pachulia possibly out for the first couple of games, the likely starter is Collins. KG should win this matchup hands down.
Bench vs Bench
The Celtics bench proved in the last game between these two teams the Celtics reserves proved that they can be a force to be reckoned with, and that was without Pietrus or Ray. The Celtics could very well still be without Ray, but Pietrus adds considerably to the Celtics second unit. Advantage in this matchup should go to the Celtics. Keys to the GameDefense
- The Celtics have made defense their calling card all season. They are ranked 2nd in points allowed at 89.3 and first in FG% allowed at 41.9%. They let their 3 point defense slip somewhat toward the end of the season and it will be important to guard the perimeter against the Hawks as they shoot 37% as a team from beyond the arc. Defense becomes even more important in the playoffs and so the Celtics must play defense as a team and clamp down both in the paint and on the perimeter. Rebound
- No rebounds, no win. It's as simple as that. The Celtics must crash the boards and keep the Hawks from getting tip ins and second chance baskets. Smith is very good at getting to the hoop and tipping the ball in on misses. The Celtics have to rebound as a team and box out, which was a foreign concept to them at times during the season. Much of rebounding is desire, effort, and timing. When the Celtics put out the effort on the boards, that effort often spreads to other areas of their game. Be Aggressive
- The Celtics must be the team that wants to win more. They have to be aggressive on defense, in going after loose balls, in crashing the boards, and most importantly, in going to the basket and not settling for jumpers. The more aggressive team will get the benefit of the calls from the refs and that has to be the Celtics.
On the Road and Officiating
The Celtics feel that they can win this series without home court. The Hawks will likely get the benefit of home team calls from the refs and the Celtics have to overcome that. Crowds are usually hostile to the visiting team, but if the games during the regular season are any indication, there may be a good amount of Celtics fans in the crowd. The Celtics will have to overcome the Hawks fans part of the crowd and the officiating and the travel and the irritations of not being at home. They felt they could do it. Now is time to prove it.