1/28 Game Preview: Celtics at Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks go for their sixth straight victory on Friday when they host the Boston Celtics.
Atlanta received an excellent performance from its second unit on Wednesday and defeated the Sacramento Kings 121-104. Boston beat up on the Kings on Tuesday night, rolling to a 128-75 win. The Celtics have won two straight and seven of their past 10.
It will be the second meeting between the teams this season. Atlanta prevailed 110-99 on Nov. 17 and has won the past two games played in Atlanta.
The Hawks are finally healthy and living up to their preseason expectations. They lost five consecutive games before starting the current winning streak with a pair of big second-half wins. Atlanta is now three games below .500 and a half-game out of the 10th spot. Boston is No. 8, one game over .500, and two games ahead of Atlanta.
"I think it is getting healthy. I think they're in better shape," Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. "A lot of these guys started the season and I didn't think their conditioning was good enough. Then all of a sudden, we have injuries and we have COVID. Now those guys are coming back from that.
"You have to be in good shape to play offense and to play the pressure defense that we want to play and get up and down the court offensively. And the chemistry is getting better the more they play with each other."
Atlanta's bench, bolstered by the return of veteran Bogdan Bogdanovic, outscored Sacramento's second unit 70-24, including a 41-11 advantage in the first half.
"I thought they really gave us a lift," McMillan said. "I thought our first unit started off slow and the second unit came in and really established the defense."
Bogdanovic missed five games with a sore right knee and finished with 18 points Wednesday. Other key contributors off the bench were Onyeka Okongwu (18 points, seven rebounds), Lou Williams (15 points, five assists) and Danilo Gallinari (seven points, nine rebounds).
Trae Young was the only Hawks starter in double figures with 17 points to end a six-game streak that saw him score at least 24.
Boston got 36 points from Jayson Tatum and 30 from Jaylen Brown on Tuesday, with both sitting out in the fourth quarter because of the wide lead. The Celtics led by 60 points at one point.
"We were sharing the wealth. Everybody contributed. Everybody was hitting shots," Brown said. "It was just a great night overall for everybody."
Tatum and Brown have historically been tough against the Hawks. This season, Tatum is averaging 26 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists.
He put up 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists against the Hawks in November.
Brown, who grew up in the northern Atlanta suburbs, is averaging 24 points and 6.6 rebounds.
He missed the first game against Atlanta with a right hamstring strain.
"They are the two pillars and leaders of the team," Boston head coach Ime Udoka said. "When they come out and play with that intensity, everybody seems to follow suit."