Game Preview: Celtics at Hawks
The Boston Celtics, in the midst of playing five of six games away from home, will try to avert a seventh straight loss Saturday night when they visit an Atlanta Hawks team that has tightened up its defense of late.
Since averaging 104.8 points on 47.8 percent shooting during a surprising four-game winning streak, Boston has slumped with 87.8 points per game and a 41.4 field-goal percentage while dropping its last six by an average of 14.5 points.
Following Wednesday's 104-93 loss at San Antonio, the Celtics put up their second-lowest point total despite shooting 50.7 percent in Friday's 97-82 home loss to Indiana. The Pacers lead the NBA in points against at 86.8 per game, while the Spurs top the Western Conference at 89.3.
"We passed (the Pacers) the ball too much," coach Brad Stevens said. "That probably had a lot to do with our shot selection."
The surging Hawks could present another tough test after limiting opponents to 94.3 points during a 6-2 stretch. Atlanta had given up 105.4 over its first five contests.
The Hawks held the Pistons to 42.9 percent shooting - including 3 of 13 from 3-point range - in Friday's 96-89 win that gave them a sweep of a home-and-home set.
Boston hasn't lost seven straight since April 4-15, 2007, before Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were acquired that summer to join Paul Pierce. The Celtics have struggled in Atlanta dating to their glory years, dropping 46 of their last 64 there, including the playoffs.
Jordan Crawford led Boston with a season-high 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting in Friday's loss, while Jeff Green, averaging a team-high 15.2 points, added 20.
Green has scored 18.7 per game on 51.3 percent shooting - including 6 for 11 from 3-point range - in his last three against the Hawks. His 27 points helped Boston to a 118-107 win over visiting Atlanta in the most recent meeting on March 29. The Celtics took three of four against the Hawks last season.
Atlanta's Al Horford, who had 17 points and 11 boards Friday, totaled 46 points and 26 rebounds in consecutive meetings with the Celtics last season before sitting out the final matchup because of a stomach illness.
Jeff Teague scored 20.8 per game on 55.2 percent shooting in last season's series with Boston. He had 18 points, nine assists and one key block on Brandon Jennings' layup attempt with 1:41 remaining in Friday's win.
"I knew coach (Mike Budenholzer) was going to show it on film, so I had to make sure to get back and make an attempt on it, either foul him or make a good block, and I was able to meet him at the rim," Teague told the league's official website.
The Hawks, averaging 101.8 points and ranking near the top of the league with a 47.3 field-goal percentage, will try to capitalize on Boston's recent defensive struggles. The Celtics have given up 105.0 points on 48.3 percent shooting over their last five games.
Boston could be without rookie Kelly Olynyk after he left Friday's game because of a sprained right ankle.
The Celtics have won seven of nine overall against Atlanta, including their 4-2 series win in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.