NBA Analysis: Celtics Looking to End Losing Streak vs. Hawks

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Boston Celtics (9-4) at Atlanta Hawks (8-5)
Monday, November 22
7:00 PM ET
Game #14,  Road Game #8
TV:   CSNNE, SNET1, SPSO, NBA-LP 751/752
Radio:  WEEI,  WQXI
Philips Arena  

Referees:  Bill Spooner, Rodney Mott, Scott Wall 

The Celtics come into this game having lost their previous two games  to short handed teams that they should have been able to beat easily.   Whether they played down to the competition and were burned by it or whether they are bored, as Doc hinted, or whether they are just not putting the effort into the games.  they are going to have to do much better in this game, or they will get blown out.  The Hawks are at full strength and have a starting 5 that has been together for 2 seasons now.  They have also swept the Celtics last season so if the Celtics can't get up for this one,  there truly is something wrong with this team.
Last Season  the Hawks won the season series 4‐0 and they are playing with the same starting 5 this season.  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.  Paul Pierce led the C’s attack with an average of 24.8 points per game while Kendrick Perkins posted a double‐double with 12.0 points and 11.0 rebounds.   Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 24.8 points per game while Jamal Crawford averaged 20.3 points coming off the bench.

The Hawks are a young and athletic team and are healthy while the Celtics are banged up and have struggled with the Hawks for the past few years.   What's more, the Hawks have had a day of rest while the Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games.  The Celtics are now 4-3 on the road and the Hawks are 3-4 at home.  Both teams are coming into this game off a loss with the Hawks losing their last game while the Celtics have lost their last 2 games.  The Celtics must come out with more focus and effort than they have in their last 2 games or they will find themselves on a 3 game losing streak. 

Probable Starters
  PG: Rajon Rondo 10.9 PPG, 14.9 APG .2.6 SPG

SG: Ray Allen 18.1 PPG, 2.6 APG, .445 3P%

  SF:   Paul Pierce   21.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.7 APG

  PF:  Kevin Garnett   15.6 PPG,  10.1 RPG, 0.5 BPG

C:   Shaquille O'Neal   10.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG,  0.3 BPG

Boston Bench Mob
Marquis Daniels
Glen Davis
Semih Erden
Luke Harangody
Delonte West 
Nate Robinson
Von Wafer
Avery Bradley 

Kendrick Perkins (knee) out
Jermaine O'Neal (knee)  out
Rajon  Rondo (hamstring) questionable

Probable Starters
  PG Mike Bibby 10.7 PPG  3.6 APG   0.6 SPG

  SG Joe Johnson 18.5 PPG  5.0 APG  .254 3P% 

  SF  Marvin Williams  9.4 PPG  5.1 RPG 1.4 APG

  PF Josh Smith  16.3 PPG  9.3 RPG  3.0 BPG 

C  Al Horford  17.4 PPG 9.7 RPG  0.9 BPG

Jamal Crawford
Maurice Evans
Zaza Pachulia
Jeff Teague
Jordan Crawford
Jason Collins
Josh Powell
Etan Thomas 

Pape Sy (back) out

Key Matchups
Kevin Garnett vs Josh Smith
Smith is a very athletic and quick power forward and will be a tough matchup for KG, especially since he played almost 36 minutes on Sunday. 

Ray Allen vs Joe Johnson
Ray played almost 41 minutes vs the Raptors on Sunday and it will be a tough matchup for him to have to face Joe Johnson who is athletic and quick and can score in bunches. 

Honorable Mention
The Point Guard Matchup
Rondo will once again be a game time decision for the Celtics and should he not be able to play, Doc should start Delonte at the point as he will match up better with Bibby than Nate would.  Bibby is a scoring PG and Nate won't be able to cover him.  If Rondo is good to go, this matchup should be in favor of the Celtics. 

Keys to the Game
Defense - This is the key to every game and to winning a 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.  In their last two losses, the Celtics have allowed way too many easy baskets. They have been playing defense in spurts, but they have to get back to being a defense first team. 

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 get second chance baskets.  If the Celtics don't grab the offensive boards, the Hawks will get out on the break for easy baskets.      The Celtics were out-rebounded by the Raptors 41-36 and they were out-rebounded by the Thunder 37-31.  When they don't put out the effort on the boards, the effort isn't there in other parts of the game either. 

Focus and Effort - The Celtics have lacked focus and effort in their last two games and because of it, in spite of a run down the stretch, they lost 2 games against short handed opponents that they should have beat. In their 4 losses, the Celtics have been outscored in the second quarter.  They seem to become complacent after a good first quarter and let up in the second.   They must have better focus and put out more of an effort, especially in the second quarter, and not expect to pour it on later because that hasn't been working for them. 

Make Free Throws - In the last two games decided by 5 points and 1 point respectively, the Celtics missed 10 free throws in each games.  They must make their free throws, especially down the stretch.  The lapses at the free throw line can also be attributed to a lack of focus. 

Odd Fact

The Atlanta Hawks name was shortened from Blackhawks to Hawks upon moving to Milwaukee from the Tri-Cities region where the Blackhawk war took place in 1831.

Injuries, Focus  and Fatigue
The Celtics definitely missed Rondo vs the Raptors.  No question that Nate is a shoot first PG and several times he took the shot with a wide open teammate calling for the ball.  Bibby is a very good PG and perhaps West can guard him, but Nate will struggle against him.  Also the shoulder injury is limiting Semih's production and with JO still out, it makes the Celtics thin up front.   With the injuries and back to back games, fatigue could also affect the outcome of this game. I should add focus here also because even if they are healthy, they won't win if they don't play focused basketball for 4 quarters.