Boston Celtics (52-22) at Atlanta Hawks (43-32)
Friday, April 1
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #75, Road Game #38
TV: ESPN, CSN-NE, NBAC
Radio: WEEI, WQXI, 99X FM
Referees: Monty McCutchen, Tony Brown, Jason Phillips
This is the 3rd and final meeting between these two teams. The Celtics have won both games so far, one in Boston and one in Atlanta. Last Season the Hawks won the season series 4-0. It marked the first time since 1998-99 season that the Celtics had been swept by the Hawks and only the fourth time since the 1960-61 season that the C’s had failed to win a game against Atlanta.
The Celtics finally got one of their big men back as Jermaine O'Neal played his first game against the Spurs but lost another as Krstic went out with a knee injury in that same game. Krstic is headed for an MRI but no word on how serious the injury is at this time. So just when the Celtics thought they were going to get some depth at center, they lose another center to injury.
These two teams don't like each other very much going back to the 2008 playoff series that got very heated. Paul Pierce and Al Horford had a few scuffles and heated exchanges as did KG and Zaza Pachulia. They always seem to play a little harder when they face the Celtics.
The Celtics are 23-14 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Hawks are 23-15 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. The Hawks have won 3 in a row while the Celtics have won just 1 game and are 2-3 in their last 5. The Celtics are 2 games back of Chicago, who play the Pistons tonight, and they are back to half a game in front of the Heat, who play Minnesota. The Hawks are sitting comfortably in the 5th spot, 4 games behind Orlando for the 4th seed and 4 games in front of Philly for the 6th seed.
The Celtics are coming off a very emotional win over the Spurs while the Hawks were off on Thursday. The team wasn't expected to get to their hotel until 5 am and back to back games have been tough for them all season. It would be great if the Celtics could build on the win over the Spurs and get another win in this game. If they play like they did in San Antonio they have a very good chance. But maybe that's too much to ask on the second night of back to back games and with the Celtics once again playing short handed in the middle.
Ray Allen vs Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson is athletic and quick and can score in bunches. Ray Allen is capable of scoring in bunches also if he is given the ball early to get into his rhythm. He has been struggling with his shot but is due for a big game. If Ray runs off his multitude of screens, Johnson may be too tired to be effective on the offensive end.
Paul Pierce vs Josh Smith
Josh Smith is strong and has a couple inches on Pierce. Smith usually plays the power forward spot but the Hawks have been playing with a big lineup with Smith at the 3 and Horford at the 4. Smith will be a handful for Pierce on both ends of the court. Hopefully Pierce continues the aggressive play and leadership we saw against the Spurs.
Rajon Rondo vs Kirk Hinrich
As has been all season, as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. Rondo had one of his best games of the season against the Spurs. The Celtics will need that Rondo tonight to beat the Hawks. Hopefully Rondo will be aggressive in running the offense and distributing the ball. It would be great if he could also continue to hit his jumpers.
Keys to the Game Defense - This is the key to every game and to winning the championship this year. The Hawks are a good 3 point shooting team as well as having the ability to get to the basket and so the Celtics must defend both the perimeter and the paint.
Rebound - The Celtics have been giving up too many rebounds. With Horford and Smith inside, if the Celtics don't box out and get the defensive boards, the Hawks will make them pay with second chance baskets. When the Celtics don't put out the effort on the boards, the effort isn't there in other parts of the game either.
Be Aggressive- The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team. They need to win the battle on the boards. They need to win the 50-50 battle and the battle for loose balls and hustle points. And they need to be more aggressive defensively. The more aggressive team usually gets the benefit of the calls and have the momentum.
Play as a Team - The Celtics must get back to playing team ball. They have to move the ball, make the extra pass and find the open man. They won't win playing hero ball. The ball movement against the Spurs was a beautiful thing and hopefully they continue it in this game. They also have to play as a team on defense, being sure to have each others backs on defense.
McCutchen has been officiating games since 1993 and wears number 13. McCutchen missed the 1998-99 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. He is a former elementary and middle school teacher and is fondly remembered by his students as a really nice guy. In searching for information on him, I found a Cavs' blog that blamed their April 4 loss to the Celtics last season on the officiating of Monty McCutchen. That was the game where Mike Brown was ejected and the Cavs made a furious comeback but fell short. Other than that, there's not a lot of controversy about McCutchen. The Celtics are 3-0 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with McCutchen on the court. The Hawks are 1-2 this season and 5-5 in their last 10. In the win over Indiana, the free throws were even but in the win over Miami, McCutchen and company gave the Heat 41 free throws to just 25 for the Celtics. In the win at NY, the free throws were again even. He is not a big homer ref and doesn't appear to be influenced by the home crowd. His home W/L record this season is 32-27.
This is Brown's 8th season in the NBA. He has officiated over 220+ regular season games and is one of only 3 active officials to have worked in all 3 leagues associated with the NBA family. Before starting his career in the NBA he worked for the NBDL, the CBA and the WNBA. He also officiated games at the college level. This is the just the second Celtics game for Brown this season. The first game was the loss in Boston to the Grizzlies where the calls were fairly even but the Celtics didn't come to play. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games with Brown and the Hawks are 7-3 in their last 10. His home W/L record is 34-25.
Phillips has been in the league for 8 years. He has officiated 380+ regular season games. Before landing in the NBA he worked for the CBA 6 seasons, the WNBA 3 seasons, 2 years in the Dallas Pro-Am, and 5 seasons in high school level in Texas. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and they are 7-3 over their last 10 games with Phillips as a ref. It was Phillips and crew that got Tommy to swear on the air about the refs falling for all the blank blank flops. Atlanta is 4-6 with Phillips over their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 38-22.
Back to Back
This is the second back to back set in a row. The Celtics have struggled all season in back to back games. Every game is important if the Celtics want to avoid slipping to the 3rd seed. If the Celtics put out the effort, they can win this game but they have to want it more.