Despite looking unstoppable heading into the playoffs last season, the Celtics needed seven games to fend off the eighth-seeded Hawks. This season they are even more vulnerable, with injuries hampering their lineup. If the Celtics came dangerously close to elimination with a healthy squad, what do they have to do this season to avoid another first round scare?
‘They just have to come out to try to keep focused throughout the whole series,’ said Al Horford prior to the Celtics-Hawks game (RECAP HERE ). ‘I think that after them beating us the first two games here (Boston), they thought that they could just go into Atlanta and take care of it. But they didn’t realize what was ahead of them. I think they know this by now. They know they have to come in and they have to bring their A-game on the road too.’
The Celtics inability to win on the road nearly cost them their title. They folded in Atlanta — ‘[They played] totally different. Totally different,’ said Horford — and it wasn’t until Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons  that they finally won away from the Garden.
‘They are a lot more energetic, I would say, [at home]. They get up and down a lot more and play with a lot more confidence at home, so it makes them a much better team,’ said Joe Johnson . ‘I don’t think they run as much [on the road]. I just think that as soon as you go on the road, the atmosphere is not the same. You’re just not used to a lot of things. But at home, that’s where you’re more comfortable so you tend to play more relaxed and have a lot more confidence.’
Even if the Celtics overcome their woes on the road, there is still a bigger concern ‘ the nagging knee injury of Kevin Garnett . He averaged nearly 21 points (more than twenty percent of the Celtics total offense) and nine rebounds per game in the first round against Atlanta. But the Hawks have lost twice to Celtics this season without Garnett and think they can compensate for his absence.
‘Keep (Glen) Big Baby Davis confident in his play and keep having Mikki Moore  come off the bench and play well like he’s doing,’ suggested Josh Smith. ‘I don’t think they have anything to worry about.’
In less than two weeks the Celtics will be drawing up their gameplan for the start of the postseason. While they have three first round losses to the Hawks to reflect on, they may have already learned all the lessons they need.
‘Just win, that’s what it comes down to,’ said Hawks head coach Mike Woodson . ‘I think the fact that they might not have homecourt advantage all the way through, when you win a title that doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t because these guys, they’ve been through the wars. They went seven with us, they went seven with Cleveland, Detroit gave them a good run. There’s nothing they haven’t seen so I don’t think it really matters.
‘They’re going to be there when it counts. I promise you that.’