Watch It! - Hawks at Celtics

Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks meet at 8 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.

Hawks Are Flying

If you haven’t noticed, Atlanta is really, really good. Like… really, really good.

The Hawks enter tonight’s contest sitting atop the Eastern Conference with a 30-8 record. That’s the second-best record in the entire NBA. Of late, they’ve been playing at an even higher level. Atlanta has won 23 of its last 25 games. Twenty-three of its last 25 games!

There is no team in the NBA playing better basketball right now. The Hawks play as a team, and Boston will certainly have a difficult time overcoming that togetherness tonight.

C’s Defense is Rising

Boston’s defense has been getting better and better all season long. Over the past five games, it has been absurdly effective.

The last five Celtics opponents have made just 42.4 percent of their field goal attempts. That isn’t just good. That’s great. To put that into perspective, Golden State leads the league in opponent field goal percentage at 42.0 percent. No other team in the league has limited its opponent to less than 42.8 percent shooting this season.

Based on recent production, the C’s cannot count on only their offense to win games. However, continued defense at this level should put Boston in position to grab a win.

Mr. Triple-Double?

Rajon Rondo is the only player in recent memory who has played at TD Garden following a triple-double. That’s going to change tonight.

Hawks big man Al Horford is coming off of what may have been his best all around performance as a pro Tuesday night. He led Atlanta to a victory over the Sixers by logging his first career triple-double that consisted of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He also tacked on a blocked shot.

Horford has been fantastic this season and he’s been particularly effective of late. He heads into tonight’s game having averaged 18.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game over his last three contests. Let’s hope Boston can prevent him from approaching his second career triple-double during this matchup.

Get To The Line

One major trend can be drawn from Atlanta’s losses this season – albeit a limited amount of losses – is that it can become prone to sending opposing teams to the free-throw line. Opponents have taken an average of 26.3 free throws per game during Atlanta’s eight defeats.

The Hawks could be susceptible on the foul front during this game because they are playing in the second night of a back-to-back. As we all know, teams generally are a step slower on the back end of a back-to-back, oftentimes leading to more fouls.

It will be in Boston’s best interest to play in attack mode all night long. The team is not particularly adept at getting to the line, ranking 27th in the league in free throw attempts per game, but it does have players who are capable of getting to the charity stripe. Tonight is the night for them to do so.

Toe the Line

One thing the Celtics cannot do tonight is allow Atlanta to get quality looks from long range. If they do, this game is over.

The Hawks have been exceptional from downtown this season. They enter tonight’s game ranked second in the league in 3-point field goal percentage, having made 38.6 percent of their attempts on the season. Four Hawks rotational players, led by Kyle Korver (52.5 percent), are shooting better than 38.0 percent from downtown. Compare that to the C’s, who have only one rotational player who has made more than 37.0 percent of his 3s.

Clearly, Boston’s defense will need to toe the 3-point line tonight. Close-outs on perimeter shots will be an integral piece to this game. The Celtics cannot allow the Hawks to get open looks from behind the arc.

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