Boston Celtics (46-21) vs. Atlanta Hawks (34-33) Game #68 3/11/23

The Celtics travel to Atlanta for a game Atlanta Hawks for the second of 3 games between these two teams this season. In the first meeting, the Celtics beat the Hawks 126-101, also in Atlanta. The Celtics and Hawks will meet again on April 9 in Boston. Last season they tied the series 2-2, with each team winning twice at home.

The Celtics are 2nd in the East. They are 2.5 games behind first place Milwaukee. They are 1.5 games ahead of third-place Philadelphia. and 5 games ahead of No. 4 Cleveland. They are 20-12 away from home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 28-16 against Eastern Conference opponents. They lost 3 games in a row before winning the last game.

The Hawks are 8th in the East, 2 games behind 7th Miami and 4 games behind 6th Brooklyn. They are 1.5 games ahead of No. 9 Toronto and 3 games ahead of No. 11 Chicago and out of the playoffs. They are 18-13 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 20-22 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have won their last 2 games, both against the Wizards.

This is the second straight game for the Hawks. They played on the road against the Wizards on Friday night and had to come home for this game. This is their first game at home after 4 away games in which they won 2-2. This is the first of a three-game homestand for the Hawks that will also include Minnesota and Golden State.

The Celtics are coming off a 1-2 homestand, finally getting a win over Portland in their last home game before embarking on a 6-game road trip. This is the first game of that road trip that will take the Celtics through Houston, Minnesota, Portland, Utah and Sacramento. The Celtics had 2 days off before this game.

Payton Pritchard is out with a heel injury and is expected to be out until at least March 15. Robert Williams remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, although he plans to travel with the team. I suspect Derrick White will remain in the starting lineup instead. Danilo Gallinari remains sidelined due to an ACL injury. The Hawks have no players on the injured list.
Probable Celtics players

Marcus SmartPhoto by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Derrick WhitePhoto by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Jaylen BrownPhoto by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Jayson TatumPhoto by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Al HorfordPhoto by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Celtics reserves
Malcolm Brogdon
Grant Williams
Sam Hauser
Luke Kornet
Blake Griffin
Mike Muscala

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Danilo Gallinari (ACL) is out
Payton Pritchard (ankle) questionable
Robert Williams III (hamstring) out

Head coach
Joe Mazzulla

PG: Trae YoungJason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Dejounte MurrayPhoto by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

De’Andre HunterPhoto by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

John CollinsPhoto by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

Clint CapelaPhoto by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Hawks reserves
Saddiq Bey
Bogdan Bogdanović
Bruno Fernando
AJ Griffin
Aaron Holiday
Jalen Johnson
Vit Krejci
Tyrese Martin
Garrison Matthews
Mr. Okongwu

2 Way Players
Trent Forrest
Donovan Williams

None listed

Head coach
Quin Snyder

Key matches

Marcus SmartPhoto by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Trae YoungBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart vs. Trae Young
Young averaged 26.7 points per game. He also averages 3.0 rebounds, 10.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He shoots 43.2% from the field and 32.9% from behind the arc. The Celtics will have their hands full trying to slow him down and prevent him from having a big game.

Derrick WhitePhoto by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Dejounte MurraySam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick White vs. DeJounte Murray
Murray is averaging 21.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He shoots 46.7% from the field and 36.2% from behind the arc. The Celtics will have to work hard on both ends of the court to get a better win out of this matchup.

Honorable mention
Jaylen Brown vs. De’Andre Hunter
Hunter is averaging 15.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He shoots 46.5% from the field and 36.3% from behind the arc. The Celtics will need Jaylen Brown to play well on both ends of the court to win.

Game keys
Defense – Defense is always the key to winning matches. Defense is especially important for the Celtics in this game as the Hawks are a good scorer averaging 117.2 points per game, which is 6th in the league. The Celtics are fourth with an average of 117.6 points per game. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 110.9 which is 4th while the Hawks have a defensive rating of 114.8 which is 22nd. For the Celtics, defense has to be a priority in this game and they have to play that tough defense for 48 minutes and not let up.

Rebound – Along with defense, the jump is the key to victory. A big part of the jump is effort and desire. When the Celtics put in an extra effort on the boards, it usually carries over to the rest of their game. The Hawks average 43.5 rebounds per game (14th), while the Celtics average 45.3 rebounds per game (6th). The Celtics need to go aggressive after every rebound. They can’t afford to give the Hawks extra possessions by letting them grab rebounds.

Be aggressive – The Celtics must be a team that plays harder and wants this victory more. They have to be aggressive in looking for loose balls, going to the basket, stopping on defense and going for rebounds. The Celtics must play with energy and aggression for 48 minutes in this game without letting up.

Stay focused – The Celtics must come in focused and stay focused throughout the game. They need to focus on their shots and shot selection. They need to focus on making free throws. They need to focus on playing defense and making proper substitutions. They need to focus on good passing and not turning the ball over. And they have to focus on sharing the ball and playing properly. Lack of focus results in those terrible shooting nights and high turnover games.

The X factors
On the road – The Celtics are playing in the first of 6 consecutive away games. The Celtics need to focus on playing their game and not be distracted by playing on the road, traveling and hostile crowds. The Celtics have to work even harder to get a road win.

Training – The Celtics have a rookie coach who has done a good job so far this season. The Hawks just made a coaching change and now have a very veteran coach in Quin Snyder, but he has only coached the Hawks for a short time. Snyder led the Hawks to 2 straight wins. Can he do it again in this game?

Trial – Judging is always an x-factor. Each crew calls the game a little different, some call it tight and others let them play. Some referees just make terrible calls, while others try really hard to get them right. In many games this season, they feel the game was tight in the first half and then loosen up the calls in the second half or vice versa. The Celtics need to adjust to how the game is called and focus on playing the game rather than making bad decisions or no decisions.

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