|Down the stretch: How the Hawks and Celtics schedules play out||04.15.12 at 10:07 am ET|
It’s looking more and more likely that the Celtics will play Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs.
With the C’s closing in on the Atlantic Division title, they are guaranteed to be no lower than the fourth seed. The Hawks, meanwhile, have a one-game lead on Orlando for fifth and the Magic will be without center Dwight Howard for the next 10-14 days with a herniated disk in his back.
Entering play on Sunday, the Celtics (35-25) are a game back of Atlanta (35-24) in the loss column, thanks to their brutal loss to Toronto on Friday night. If the Hawks finish with a better record, they would get homecourt advantage in the first round. If the two teams are tied, the Celtics would own the tiebeaker by virtue of their winning the Atlantic Division.
With that in mind, here’s how their respective schedules play out:
Sunday: At Charlotte
Tuesday: At New York
Friday: At Atlanta
Tue. April 24: Miami
Thur. April 26: Milwaukee
Monday: At Toronto
Sunday: New York
Tue. April 24: Clippers
Thur. April 26 Dallas
Two things stand out. One, the Hawks play six of their seven games at home where they are 19-8. Second, this Friday’s game in Atlanta is shaping up to be extremely important. The Celtics have won both meetings this season but only by a total of five points.
|Fast Break: Celtics can’t rebound against Hawks||04.01.11 at 10:42 pm ET|
The Celtics four-game road trip began inauspiciously with an ugly win over Minnesota and a high-scoring loss to the Pacers. It ended in much the same manner with a highlight win over the Spurs off-set by an 88-83 loss to the Hawks that featured another fourth quarter collapse.
Here’s how it happened:
WHAT WENT WRONG
Second half bench minutes: The Celtics had built a 66-55 lead late in the third quarter when Doc Rivers turned to his bench. By the time Paul Pierce checked back in early in the fourth quarter, the Hawks a 71-69 lead. One way or another the reserves were going to have to play substantial minutes in this game. With this exception of Delonte West who played well, it was an uneven performance.
Serious shortage of bigs: With Nenad Krstic scheduled for an MRI, Shaquille O’Neal still a few days away (at least) and Garnett playing shorter minutes because of the back-to-back, the Celts front line depth was paper-thin. Jermaine O’Neal gave them 13 minutes and they would have been in deep trouble without them, but O’Neal is still getting his timing back. The Celtics gave up 14 offensive rebounds and it cost them the game.
Free throw shooting: Making 11 of 20 free throws on the road will never get it done, especially when the hometowm team goes 26-for-30. The Celtics lost by five points and were -15 at the free throw line.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
First half bench minutes: Rivers used the following lineup at one part of the first half: Delonte West, Von Wafer, Sasha Pavlovic, Jeff Green and Jermaine O’Neal. The group had its obvious problems — notably Green trying to guard Atlanta’s Al Horford — but Rivers stuck with his bench players for most of the second quarter and they rewarded him by keeping the game close. The reserves soaked up almost eight minutes of court time and that allowed the starters to be fresh when they returned late in the first half and build an eight-point lead.
Paul Pierce picks it up: Early in the game, Pierce got into a minor altercation with Joe Johnson who gave him a little extra shove on a foul. Pierce shoved back and was hit with a technical. The minor incident seemed to wake up the Celtics who were down 15-10 at the time. Pierce scored 10 of his 25 points in the first quarter and had half the Celtics points in an otherwise sluggish opening quarter.
Kevin Garnett’s passing ability: Of all the starters Garnett has been the one that has constantly tried to facilitate ball movement, albeit sometimes to a fault. He had five assists in the first half and it was telling that he didn’t have any in the second, which is when the Celtics offense ground to a halt.
|Fast Break: Celtics turn the lights out in Georgia||11.22.10 at 9:21 pm ET|
One day after dropping words like “bored,” the Celtics added another word to their lexicon: angry.
Right from the opening tip on Monday, the Celtics seemed determined to not just beat the Hawks, but crush them and in the process atone for their last two games. It was basically over after the Celtics opened up a 16-3 lead, but it would get much worse for the Hawks.
After 12 minutes the Celtics led 39-13 in what will be a candidate for the most perfectly-played quarter of the season. The Celtics 72 percent (18-for-25) and outrebounded the Hawks, 16-3.
Nate Robinson had more assists in the first quarter (five) than the Hawks had baskets (four). The Celtics didn’t let up, another problem area the last few games, and cruised to a 99-76 victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rebounding: After a strong start to this season on the glass, the Celtics have tailed off a bit in the rebounding department. The Thunder feasted on the offensive glass and the Raptors came up with the kind of long, loose-ball rebounds that drive coaches crazy. The Celtics tightened all that up against the Hawks, outrebouding them 16-3 in the first quarter and 26-10 (with one offensive rebound) in the first half.
Physical mismatches: Al Horford is a good player, an All-Star last season and maybe again this season, but he has no chance guarding Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq used his size and also showed some good quickness in dominating this matchup. At the other end of the floor, Robinson ran circles around Mike Bibby, who is basically a stationary jump shooter these days. The one matchup where the Hawks should have been competitive: Kevin Garnett destroyed the younger Josh Smith, holding him without a field goal and just three rebounds.
Robinson continues to impress: Rajon Rondo missed his second straight game with a strained left hamstring, and for the second straight day, Robinson filled in admirably. He recorded his first double-double as a member of the Celtics with 16 points and 10 assists. Regardless of how long Rondo is out, this has been a great opportunity for Robinson to get his game back on track.
Since not much can go wrong in a 23-point win, here’s one more bonus thing that went right for the Celtics
No let-ups: Not that it was much in doubt, but the Hawks did “win” the second quarter, 29-25. The Celtics left no doubt in the third quarter, holding Atlanta to 4-for-21 shooting and beating them with defense. This was the kind of thorough, 48-minute performance that Doc Rivers has been waiting for.
|Preview: Celtics-Hawks||01.29.10 at 10:18 am ET|
Kevin Garnett insisted to one and all Thursday night that he wasn’t hurt and that he just played like a euphemism for garbage. Certainly Garnett is entitled to an off night just three games into his comeback, but the problem is that no one really believes him.
Because of the way his comeback ended last season and because of the way his injuries were handled this season (10 days, 10 more days, etc.), he and the Celtics, frankly, don’t have a lot of credibility on the issue. However, Garnett had a string of lackluster performances earlier in the season where he looked slow and old and then rebounded to play his best stretch in over a calendar year. So, perhaps there’s hope that Thursday was just a momentary blip.
We should find out a lot Friday night when the Celtics play the Hawks and Garnett matches up against what should be a highly-motivated Josh Smith. Not only is it the second game of a back-to-back, but Garnett will be facing a player who is a decade younger and who should be (justifiably) ticked that he was left off the All-Star team. If you’re on the KG watch, it starts tonight.
CELTICS (29-14, 4-6 last 10)
Points Per Game: 99.6
Points Allowed: 93.7
Differential: +5.9 (3rd)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.9 (13th)
Defensive Efficiency: 101.6 (1st)
Pace: 91.6 (22nd)
Injuries: Marquis Daniels (thumb)
HAWKS (29-15, 7-3 last 10)
Points Per Game: 102.6
Points Allowed: 97.3
Differential: +5.3 (Fifth)
Offensive Efficiency: 111.9 (3rd)
Defensive Efficiency: 106.1 (12th)
Pace: 91.1 (25th)
Injuries: None Read the rest of this entry »
|Scal cleared to play, Marquis begins drills||01.26.10 at 4:12 pm ET|
WALTHAM – Brian Scalabrine returned to Celtics practice on Tuesday and was cleared to play on the team’s upcoming trip to Orlando and Atlanta. He had missed two games with separated right shoulder, injured on Jan. 6 in Miami.
“Scal practiced today and showed no sign of injury,” coach Doc Rivers announced following practice. “He shot two airballs and I was like, ‘Scal’s back.’ He’s good. He’ll play.”
Rivers said that Marquis Daniels participated in passing drills for the first time since surgery on his left thumb. Rivers is hopeful Daniels could re-join the team the first game back from the All-Star break.
Daniels missed his 22nd straight game on Monday night, before which Rivers indicated there was a “slight chance” the guard/forward could return on Feb. 10 in New Orleans, the final game before the All-Star break.
|Preview: Celtics-Hawks||01.11.10 at 10:23 am ET|
The focus around town has been understandably elsewhere during these early days of 2010, but as you woke up this morning to the reality of a Pats-free January and a simmering Red Sox hot stove (down from a full boil) the Celtics have got what you might call a big one tonight. That’s relative of course. There are no true Big Games in January, but the Celtics have faced the Hawks twice this season and they have been beaten pretty badly in both encounters.
After the latest defeat Friday night, Doc Rivers conceded to the press that the Hawks had been both, “the better team” and “more physical.” There’s little chance that the coach actually believes those two statements to be true in totality, but those have been the facts this season in regards to the Hawks.
The Celtics have a chance to make up for that tonight, which also kicks off a stretch of 10 games where they will play six times against quality teams. If you haven’t been paying rapt attention to the C’s lately, tonight would be a good time to start.
CELTICS (26-9, 6-4 last 10)
Points Per Game: 100.8
Points Allowed: 93.5
Differential: +7.3 (First)
Offensive Efficiency: 109.0 (10th)
Defensive Efficiency: 101.2 (Second)
Pace: 91.0 (21st)
HAWKS (23-13, 4-6 last 10)
Points Per Game: 103.4
Points Allowed: 97.8
Differential: +5.6 (Fifth)
Offensive Efficiency: 111. (Third)
Defensive Efficiency: 105.8 (12th)
Pace: 91.7 (23rd)
Injuries: None Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Celtics-Hawks||01.08.10 at 10:39 pm ET|
In the Eastern Conference hierarchy, the Magic have what the Celtics want and the Cavaliers have their attention. But it’s the Hawks that seem to bring out the best and the worst in the Celtics.
You could call it chippy. You could call it physical. Call it whatever you want but there’s a real edge when these two teams play. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. The Celtics often play their best when they feel like they’ve been backed into a corner. But at times against the Hawks all that physical aggression resulted in some unseemly hoops.
The sequence went like this in a 93-85 Celtics loss Friday night: Bad first quarter, great second quarter, horrific third quarter, not good enough fourth quarter. The reason for the loss was fairly atypical. It wasn’t turnovers or offensive rebounds that did them in. It was an unsightly 41 percent shooting percentage.
This is developing into a good rivalry. Forget the playoff series from two seasons ago; that was another lifetime ago. The Hawks think they are on the level with the Celtics, and while they don’t have the playoff chops to prove it, they certainly have their number in the regular season.
Player of the Game: Josh Smith (Atlanta). The guy ESPN’s Jay Bilas once said was most likely to be a bust from the 2004 draft class (good call Jay) has quietly turned into one of the best forwards in the league. He finally has shelved the misguided 3-point game that stunted his growth and become a nightmare matchup on the post. Smith had two huge momentum-changing plays. One came on an alley-oop dunk. Another came on a clean block on what would have been a dunk by Kendrick Perkins.
Turning Point: The moment the second half started. The Celtics had played a solid road first half. They shot the ball well, took care of the ball and didn’t let the crowd into the game. And then, everything changed. The Hawks started making shots, which happens, but the Celtics stopped running their offense and like a batter taking a strikeout into the field, they let it affect their defense
* Perkins and Al Horford are part of a large group of Eastern Conference centers who wouldn’t look out of place on the All-Star team behind Dwight Howard. Both are complimentary players in the grand schemes of their teams, but both have also seen their roles, and their production, expand this season. Give the slight edge to Horford last night, but only slight.
* The Celtics shot almost 40 percent from 3-point range but don’t be fooled. They were 7-for-12 in the first half and 2-f0r-12 in the second. Rasheed Wallace was the worst offender going 1-for-8.
* Eddie House returned to the lineup and scored five points in 13 minutes, but the flu that’s been going around the team isn’t done with the Celtics. Tony Allen was sick and missed the game.
* The Celtics somehow only committed 14 fouls in the game. Considering the nature of the game, that was the definition of the refs “letting them play.”
* Lester Hudson wasn’t unemployed for long. The Grizzlies claimed him on waivers and that may be a good spot for him to get some minutes and somebody’s long-term attention. Hudson doesn’t have much time to make an impression as he’s already 25 years old.
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