|Hawks explain Celtics keys to postseason success||04.03.09 at 11:07 pm ET|
Before the Boston Celtics won their 17th world championship and proved “anything is possible,” the Atlanta Hawks proved something of their own – beating the Celtics was possible, too.
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.”
|Tony Allen returns||at 7:59 pm ET|
With three minutes to go in the first quarter, Tony Allen took the court for the first time since February 8. Allen had been rehabbing from torn ligaments in his thumb that he suffered in practice. He was cleared to play on Wednesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats. He made it as far as the scorer’s table but never got into the game.
|More boos for Bibby||at 7:51 pm ET|
Nope, Celtics fans still have not forgotten about Mike Bibby’s anti-Boston comments during last season’s playoffs. I’m waiting for the boos to die down, but six minutes into the game they are going strong. The only difference, everyone forgot their Bibby face:
|More Twitter analysis||at 3:46 pm ET|
There is no ignoring the speculation and discussions surrounding Twitter. This week we posed the question of the Celtics, To Tweet or Not to Tweet? Today Athlete Interactive, an online sports marketing company, analyzed the implications of professional athletes using the social networking site:
“It’s not difficult to imagine any number of scenarios where an athlete’s instant access to the world backfires because of bad judgment or a simple mistweet: an athlete tweets a prediction that fails to come to pass; an athlete tweets during a game that he later is responsible for losing; an athlete tweets something he fails to recognize as offensive, and in seconds, irrevocably undoes years of work.”
Athlete Interactive represents Paul Pierce and Tyson Chandler, both who actively Tweet. Click here for the full article.
|Forest for the trees||at 12:54 pm ET|
The standings, like every other statistical number in sports, don’t lie.
And the standings are telling the Celtics that second seed in the East, and guaranteed home court advantage in the second round, are there for the taking in the final six games of the season.
Heading into tonight’s game with Atlanta, the Celtics lead the Magic by a game for second place in the East. Both teams have 19 losses with Boston ahead by two wins, 57-55. So Orlando has two games in hand on Boston but the Celtics have fate in their own hands for the time being.
What does all that really mean to Doc Rivers as he tries to get Paul Pierce and Ray Allen some rest in the last two weeks?
“It’s human nature and obviously, we want it,” Rivers said at Friday morning’s shootaround. “Don’t get me wrong, I really would like to get the second seed but I don’t worry about it a lot but the bottom line is you’ve just got to play and you’ve got to control your own destiny and whatever happens, happens.”
In other words, don’t expect to see Pierce and Allen playing 45 minutes, or even 40 for that matter, just to get the number one seed.
His younger players like Glen Davis and Rajon Rondo will have the chance to carry the load, especially with Kevin Garnett out for another week.
“We just try to go out there and play the game how it’s supposed to be played,” Davis said. “We can’t worry about what the other teams are doing. We’ve just got to go out there and make sure we do what we need to do to go where we need to go. No matter where we are in the playoffs, we feel like we can compete with anybody and that’s just the way we feel.”
“First is probably out of reach even though Cleveland lost yesterday, we’re still 4 1/2 games out with eight to play,” Rondo added. “We’re not looking ahead to who we’re going to play in the first round but definitely, if we make it to the second round, we want to have home court advantage.”
|Time for TA||at 11:38 am ET|
Doc Rivers began his briefing with reporters this morning at shootaround in Waltham by declaring that Kevin Garnett is going to return to action tonight against the Atlanta Hawks.
“Kevin is going to play tonight and that’s April Fools a couple of days late,” Rivers said before quickly qualifying as a joke.
While Garnett is still out, Tony Allen could see his first action since spraining his left thumb in early February. Allen made it to the scorer’s table in the fourth quarter but never entered the game on Wednesday against Charlotte.
“We are going to try and ease Tony in,” Rivers said, indicating that tonight would likely be a chance for Allen to return to action. “It was game situation and Eddie (House) had it going. They stayed small, which is unusual for them. They usually go big and they stayed small. They had (D.J.) Augustine and (Raymond) Felton in a lot together and that allowed us to keep Eddie on the floor, and that was good for us because the way he was shooting we wanted to keep him on the floor.”
The other bonus of House’s playing time the other night was it allowed Rivers to rest Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for big minutes in the fourth quarter.
“Think about it, we went two overtimes and Paul and Ray still only played 47 and 48 minutes, and that’s with an extra 10 minutes added to it,” Rivers said. “Thank goodness we got them that rest because I don’t know if the overtimes would have worked out.”
|Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks||at 9:47 am ET|
Boston Celtics (57-19) vs. Atlanta Hawks (43-32)
TD BankNorth Garden
Season Series: Celtics 3-0
Last time they met: March 27, 2009
The Celtics survived a fourth quarter push from the Hawks to hold on to a 99-93 win in Atlanta. Glen Davis stepped in for Kevin Garnett, adding 19 points and 12 rebounds. Ray Allen led the Celtics with 22 points. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith also scored 22 points apiece for the Hawks. The Celtics also dished out 22 assists to the Hawks’ 14.
Celtics Team Leaders
Scoring: Paul Pierce (20.4 points)
Rebounding: Kevin Garnett* (8.5 points)
Assists: Rajon Rondo (8.5 assists)
Hawks Team Leaders
Scoring: Joe Johnson (21.4 points)
Rebounding: Al Horford (9.2 rebounds)
Assists: Joe Johnson (5.9 assists)
Follow the latest news and updates from the Garden on Green Street.