The last time these two met, Boston was on the second night of a back-to-back and coming off an important home game against one of the top teams in the East. Sound familiar? The difference this time around, is that the Celtics lost last night, as opposed to the victory they earned against Indiana going into the first match up against Atlanta.
At the time, the Hawks were the third seed in the East. The loss resulted in tempers flaring in the postgame locker room and since, the team has been on a downward spiral. Atlanta has been plagued by injuries, including the loss of Lou Williams for the season. Rumors have begun to circulate about head coach Larry Drew’s job security but perhaps the current two-game win streak is enough to get this team back on track, or at the very least, buy Drew time.
Tonight’s first key is getting off to a quick start. Boston needs to be the aggressor and come storming out of the gates. This means putting last night in the rear view and playing with passion and energy. Nothing will help the team move on from yesterday’s game faster than getting off to a hot start.
The second key is playing the full 48. The Celtics have shown spurts of how good they can be in almost every game. It needs to be more of a constant. Doc Rivers is saying all the right things but that only goes so far. It is time for his team to respond and play with heart for more than just stretches of a game.
The third key is rebounding. Atlanta loves to shoot but feature a field goal percentage of just 45 percent. The team also shoots a pedestrian 38 percent from three-point range.
If Boston can contest shots and control the glass, it will create fastbreak opportunities, which is when the team, especially Rajon Rondo, is at their/his best.
Hopefully, the Celtics can capitalize on transition opportunities, using it to build confidence (as well as a lead), and get players in rhythm. Hopefully, this will result in guys making their shots.