Game Preview: Hawks at Celtics
BOSTON – TD Garden played host to an overtime thriller between the Boston Celtics (37-34) and Atlanta Hawks (40-32) exactly three weeks ago. The time has arrived to watch those teams go at it again, as they will meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Boston.
The Celtics downed the Hawks 107-102 in the overtime game three weeks ago. Jason Terry keyed the victory by scoring the final five points of the contest. He nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 35 seconds remaining and then sealed the win with two free throws.
Terry finished that contest with 19 points, four rebounds and five assists. Unfortunately, that was the last time the Celtics saw the great version of Terry.
The C’s have played 10 games since that victory over Atlanta and Terry has shot just 42.6 percent from the floor in those contests. He has averaged only 8.3 points per game during that stretch while Boston has gone 3-7 overall.
Playing against Atlanta may be the remedy Terry needs to get back on track. He has been lights-out from downtown against the Hawks this season, having hit six of his 12 3-pointers in three games. Terry has also been perfect from the free-throw line against Atlanta with a perfect 7-for-7 total.
The Celtics hope that a game against Atlanta will help their top reserve relocate his shooting stroke. Meanwhile, the Hawks must be confident that their starting point guard, Jeff Teague, will continue his hot stretch tonight against Boston.
As well as Terry has played against the Hawks, Teague has been even better against the C’s. Teague has averaged 22.0 points per game against the C’s this season thanks to his red-hot shooting. He has hit 55.6 percent of his field goals, 46.2 percent of his 3-pointers and 90.9 percent of his free throws. On top of his scoring, Teague has also dished out an average of 6.7 assists during those three games. The March 8 tilt between these two teams featured 26 points and nine assists from Teague.
Thankfully for the C’s, those 26 points weren’t enough to push the Hawks to victory. These two teams went to overtime and Boston held on for the win thanks to Terry’s clutch plays down the stretch.
Will a thrilling overtime game be showcased yet again tonight in TD Garden? No one knows for sure. What we do know, however, is that guards could very well reign supreme in this Friday night matchup.
Boston’s Interior Defense
It’s no secret that Kevin Garnett is out of the lineup for the Celtics. Atlanta is aware of KG's absence, and it will absolutely attempt to take advantage of that.
The Hawks are a very formidable team when it comes to scoring in the paint. They average nearly 41 PPG in that area thanks to All-Star caliber big men like Al Horford and Josh Smith, who average 17.6 PPG and 17.4 PPG respectively this season. Horford is more of a post up player, while Smith scores his interior points off of athletic drives.
Those two players will be focal points of Atlanta’s offense tonight with Garnett out of the lineup. The Celtics, who will be drastically undersized, will need to find a way to combat those players’ talents.
Make Smith a 3-Point Shooter
Smith is an all-world athlete who could dominate opponents within 15 feet of the basket. However, he often allows himself to settle for 3-point shots that should be passed on more often than not.
Opponents have a much better chance to defeat Atlanta when Smith is firing up shots from downtown. He hits just 29.8 percent of his 3s when the Hawks lose while attempting 57.1 percent more 3-pointers than he does when the Hawks win.
For some reason, those numbers don’t exactly ring loud in Smith’s ears. He’s willing to settle for 3s, the Celtics just need to entice him to do so.
Pierce on the Glass
Brandon Bass has garnered most of the minutes at center since it was announced that Garnett would likely miss two weeks of games. However, on a night like tonight, Bass may not be the man the C’s rely on to rebound.
Doc Rivers recently said that Bass has done a great job preventing opposing teams from grabbing rebounds. This should be another night in which he attempts to excel in that department. Bass should concentrate on getting a body on guys like Horford, Smith and Ivan Johnson to prevent them from grabbing boards.
With Bass concentrating more on boxing players out, Pierce could be the man who swoops in for a high number of boards. He has averaged 6.6 RPG over his past 15 games and he could easily eclipse that number tonight.