2/17 Game Preview: Hawks at Celtics
The Boston Celtics hope to continue to turn their season in the right direction on Wednesday when they host the slumping Atlanta Hawks for the first of a two-games series.
The Celtics ended a two-game losing streak on Tuesday when they defeated the Denver Nuggets 112-99. Boston had lost four of its previous five games and seen its record fall to .500. The Hawks have dropped four in a row for the first time after Monday's 123-112 loss to the New York Knicks and have lost seven of their last eight.
The Eastern Conference rivals have not played this season. They will play for a second time on Friday in Boston and again on Feb. 24 in Atlanta.
Boston general manager Danny Ainge said the team's problem isn't coach Brad Stevens.
"I don't think this has anything to do with coaching," Ainge said. "We're not playing with the passion that we need. I think that's on the players. And the players on the team are on me."
The Celtics are led by Jaylen Brown, who had 27 on Tuesday and averages a career-high 26.0 points per game, and Jayson Tatum, who scored 21 and averages 25.4 per game, respectively.
The Celtics have dominated the recent series against Atlanta. Boston won all three meetings last season and has won seven in a row against the Hawks. Atlanta has not beaten Boston since April 8, 2018.
This will be the sixth back-to-back of the season for the Celtics. They have won both games three times and split the other two, losing the second game on both instances.
The Hawks continue to struggle without De'Andre Hunter, out since late January following a procedure on his right knee. Hunter is the team's No. 2 scorer, but also one of its best defenders. Without Hunter, the Hawks are allowing nearly 120 points per game this season.
On Tuesday, they were torched by 44 points by New York's Julius Randle.
"We're constantly trying to find those big-play moments on our side and we got dinged by a guy making play after play all night," Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said.
"When we say the moments we need to have come our way, they made big, big shots down the stretch and we really didn't when we were going back-and-forth. Each time you think of it, it's just how do you score, how do you make some of those plays, how do you convert."
John Collins said, "We've got to come out with more effort, energy. We need heart. We need to believe that we can win. We have to have that belief that we can and will do the things necessary to win. I believe it starts there."
Collins has been playing at a high level. He has pulled his scoring average up to 18.1 points and is averaging 7.6 rebounds.
Skylar Mays, a rookie on a two-way contract, has been a pleasant surprise. He scored 20 off the bench against San Antonio last Friday and is averaging 10.3 points on 55 percent shooting over the last three games, during which he's totaled 40 minutes -- more than he'd played ins his previous six appearances combined all season.