Boston Celtics (57-15) at Atlanta Hawks (33-39) Game #73 3/28/24

Boston Celtics (57-15) at Atlanta Hawks (33-39) Game #73 3/28/24


The Celtics continue their road trip with their second straight game in Atlanta against the Hawks. This is the 4th and final game between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first two games this season against Atlanta – 113-103 on Nov. 26 and 125-117 on Feb. 7 with both games played in Boston. They lost the third game 120-118 in Atlanta on Monday, after blowing a 30 point lead.

The Celtics won the series 3-0 last season and lead this season 2-1 going into this 4th game. The Celtics are 244 -1488 overall all time against the Hawks and they are 112-94 in games played in Atlanta. The Celtics have been off since Monday’s game while the Hawks are playing on the second night of back to back games, having played Portland on Wednesday. The Hawks are 7-5 in the 2nd of back to back games.

The Celtics remain 1st in the East, 11 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, 13 games ahead of 3rd place New York, 13.5 games ahead of 4th place Cleveland, 15 games ahead of 5th place Orlando, and 17 games ahead of 6th place Indiana. They are 25-12 on the road and 9-1 in their last 10 games. They are 38-8 against Eastern Conference teams and lost their last game after winning the previous 9 games.

The Hawks are 10th in the East and are in the final play-in spot. They are 6 games behind 7th place Miami, 5.5 games behind 8th place Philadelphia, and 1 game behind 9th place Chicago for home court in the first play in game. They are 5.5 games ahead of 11th place Brooklyn and falling out of play-in contention. The Hawks are 18-17 at home and 5-5 in the last 10 games. They are 19-26 against Eastern Conference teams and won their last 3 games.

The Celtics are playing in the fourth game of a 6 game road trip. After this game in Atlanta, they will then will play New Orleans and Charlotte before returning home for 3 games against Oklahoma City, Sacramento, and Portland. Then it’s one game on the road in Milwaukee before finishing the season at home against New York, Charlotte and Washington.

The Hawks are playing in the fourth game of a 5 game home stand. They beat Charlotte by 41 points in the first game of the home stand and then beat the Celtics by 2 after coming back from being down 30 point. They beat Portland on Wednesday in the 3rd game of the home stand. They will close out the home stand against the Bucks. Then, it’s one game at Chicago and home again vs Detroit before going on the road again to Dallas and Denver. Then it’s back home vs Miami and Charlotte and they will finish the season on the road against Minnesota and Indiana.

After staggering players over the last several games, I’m expecting most of the players to be back in the starting lineup. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and Kristaps Porzingis are all off the injury report as of now. Jrue Holiday missed the last five games with a shoulder injury but participated in practice on Wednesday and is questionable for this game.

Al Horford Horford is out due to a left big toe sprain. Jaden Springer is out with a knee injury. I’m going to guess that the starting lineup is back together for this game. If not, it’s next to impossible to guess what Joe Mazzulla will do if any of them are out. I never would have guessed the starting lineup for the last game with Tatum at the point.

The Hawks have 8 players on the injury report at this time. Saddiq Bey (knee), Kobe Bufkin (toe), AJ Griffin (ankle), Jalen Johnson (ankle), and Trae Young (finger), Mouhamed Gueye (elbow) and Onyeka Okongwu (toe) are all out for this game. Dejounte Murray (back) is questionable. I’ve included the starters listed in their game report.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics ReservesOshae BrissettSam HauserLuke KornetPayton PritchardSvi MykhailiukAl HorfordJordan WalshXavier TillmanJaden Springer

2 Way PlayersJD DavisonDrew PetersonNeemias Queta

Injuries/OutAl Horford (toe) out Jrue Holiday (shoulder) questionableJaden Springer (knee) out

Head CoachJoe Mazzulla

Probable Hawks Starters

Hawks Reserves Bruno Fernando Trent ForrestGarrison Mathews Wesley Matthews

2 Way Players Vit KrejciSeth LundyDylan Windler

Injuries/Out Saddiq Bey (knee) out Kobe Bufkin (toe) out AJ Griffin (ankle) out Mouhamed Gueye (elbow) outJalen Johnson (ankle) out Onyeka Okongwu (toe) out Trae Young (finger) out Dejounte Murray (back) questionable

Head Coach Quin Snyder

Key Matchups

Jrue Holiday vs Dejounte Murray Murray is averaging 22.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He is shooting 46.5% from the field and 36.8% from beyond the arc. Murray is also one of the Hawks best defenders. In the first game against the Celtics, he finished with 6 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He shot just 15.4% from the field and didn’t shoot a 3. He didn’t play in the second meeting between these two teams. On Monday, he finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds, 15 assists and 3 steals.

Derrick White vs Bogdan BogdanovicBogdanovic is averaging 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.2 steals. He is shooting 42.3% from the field and 37.4% from beyond the arc. In the first 2 games against the Celtics, he averaged 17.5 points, 6.5 rebounds 1.5 assists and 1 steal, while shooting 43.3% from the field and 45.3% on 3 pointers. On Monday, he finished with 22 points, while shooting 8-15 from the field and 4-7 on threes. He also had 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal.

Honorable Mention Jayson Tatum vs De’Andre Hunter Hunter is averaging 15.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He is shooting 46.7% from the field and 40.2% from beyond the arc. In the first 2 games against the Celtics, he averaged 17 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 43.5% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. On Monday, he finished with 24 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. He was 8-14 from the field and 4-8 from beyond the arc.

Keys to the Game Defense – Defense is always a key to winning games. Defense is especially important for the Celtics in this game because the Hawks are a good scoring team, averaging 119.2 points per game, which is 5th in the league. The Celtics are 2nd, averaging 121.2 points per game. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 110.5 which is 2nd while the Hawks have a defensive rating of 118.6, which is 26th. The Celtics allowed the Hawks to shoot 52.9% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc on Monday and they have to do better than that if they want to win this game. The Celtics must make defense a priority in this game and they have to play that tough defense for 48 minutes and not let up. They can’t allow missed shots to affect their effort on defense.

Rebound – Next to defense, rebounding is a key to winning. Much of rebounding is effort and desire. When the Celtics put out the extra effort on the boards, it usually carries through to the rest of their game. The Hawks are averaging 44.7 rebounds per game (6th) while the Celtics are averaging 46.5 rebounds per game (2nd). The Hawks out rebounded the Celtics 44-38 on Monday. The Celtics need to aggressively go after every rebound. They can’t afford to give the Hawks extra possessions and 2nd chance points by allowing them to beat them to rebounds.

Be Aggressive – The Hawks play hard and on Monday, the Celtics allowed them to play harder than them. The Hawks were the more aggressive team and they played harder and with more energy and the Celtics lost. The Celtics must be the team that plays harder and that wants this win more. They have to be aggressive in diving for loose balls, in going to the basket, in getting stops on the defensive end, and in going after rebounds. The Celtics have to be aggressive and play hard for 48 minutes with no let up.

Pace and Ball Movement – The Celtics are among the leaders in pace in the first quarter but are 2nd to last in pace in the 4th quarter. They moved the ball and attacked mismatches and found open shots in the first half on Monday, but stopped moving the ball and slowed the game down and and had too many iso plays in the second half. They slowed it down so much that Jayson Tatum even got an 8 second violation while walking the ball up the court, at a time when they should have been picking up the pace and moving the ball.

X-Factors Road Game and Fatigue – The Celtics are playing on the road and will have the distractions of travel and a hotel stay and playing in front of hostile fans in an unfamiliar arena. However, they had 2 days off since their last game after playing 6 games in 9 days. The Celtics were playing short handed in most of those games. The Hawks are playing on the second night of back to back games and are also playing short handed. Fatigue could come into play down the stretch in this game.

Officiating – Officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game a little differently with some calling it tight and others letting them play. Some refs just make head scratching calls while others try very hard to get them right. Sometimes they are tech crazy for every little thing. In some games they call the 2 halves completely differently. The Celtics have to adjust to how the game is being called and focus on playing the game and not on the officiating.

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