Atlanta @ Boston
Boston: 107.2 points/100 possessions (7th)
Atlanta: 105.6 points/100 possessions (12th)
Boston: 96.3 points allowed/100 possessions (1st)
Atlanta: 103.6 points allowed/100 possessions (16th)
Probable Atlanta starters: Mike Bibby (PG), Maurice Evans (SG), Marvin Gaye Williams, Jr. (SF), Josh Smith (PF), Alfred Joel Horford Reynoso (C)
View from opposing bench: Hoopinion
Thumbnail: Those of you who enjoy poetic symmetry have a lot to look forward to tonight. Three weeks ago the Celtics bludgeoned the Hawks after having lost two games in a row. I was recently told by a reliable source that they haven’t lost since. Two weeks ago, meanwhile, the Hawks beat the Knicks, who then tore off an eight-game winning streak during which they developed a rivalry with the Celtics without ever actually playing them. So we can glean from this that playing the Hawks earns you a winning streak. The Hawks are much like Good Luck Chuck in this respect.
Since we last visited the Hawks in Atlanta, they lost Joe Johnson for four to six weeks to an elbow injury. Johnson, based on his contract, is the best player on the team and will be the best player in the world in 2015. The Hawks have replaced him with Maurice Evans, who you may remember from his time with the Lakers and Magic or more likely not at all. Jamal Crawford is also not playing.
But the injuries don’t necessarily kill the Hawks thanks to Larry Drew’s new motion offense, which emphasizes ball movement and reduces the number of isolations for Johnson that dominated the Hawks playbook in recent years. Weirdly, rather than taking some time to adjust to the new offense as some might have predicted, the Hawks began the season 6-0 and only in later weeks started to play inconsistently. In their most recent contest they were absolutely hammered by the Pistons, for example, but managed to beat Orlando a week earlier. Will Atlanta’s lackluster play be compensated for by an emotionally drained Celtics squad, the ravages of a back-to-back, the continued absence of Shaq and the recently announced absence of Rajon Rondo? The answers might be after the jump.
WHAT THE HAWKS DO WELL
Make statistically ill-advised shots. The Hawks take the fourth-most long twos in the league and convert them at the second-best rate, 44.5%. A potential point of concern for a Celtics defense that generally encourages shots from that distance. In terms of production stats, I can’t find a single category where Atlanta finishes in the top eight other than the alphabet, which they pretty much dominate.
WHAT THE HAWKS DO POORLY
Plan for the future. Sorry for beating a dead shooting guard horse here, but the Hawks have about as much money tied up in 34-year-old Joe Johnson in 2015-2016 as the Celtics do for the entire 2012-2013 season. They’re both about 25 million dollars. (Hoopshype).
The good news in Atlanta is the Hawks aren’t terrible at anything statistically.
PLAYERS THAT MAKE ME WORRY
Al Horford. He’s playing out of position on offense because he’s undersized for center, and he’s playing out of position on defense because he’s the team’s best perimeter defender.
Watch this video I can’t embed for some reason in which he acts as Steve Nash’s primary cover while Mike Bibby stands harmlessly out of bounds. And Nash doesn’t even owe him ten thousand dollars. There’s a strong possibility that we’ll see Horford cover Robinsons, Pierces, and Erdens alike this evening, and there’s an equally strong possibility that he’ll cover them all well. (Thanks to Bret Lagree at Hoopinion for the awesome video).
Josh Smith. An absolutely terrifying talent. He’s continued his statistical ascent this year in pretty much all major categories. Like Horford, he’s positionally ambiguous and can guard pretty much anyone. But most importantly: do you think he and Rondo have kept in touch since the day they played video games at Derrick Rose’s loft?
PLAYERS WHO DO NOT MAKE ME WORRY
The small forwards. Marvin Williams, Maurice Evans, Damien Wilkins. You won’t see anyone giving a catchy nickname to this group anytime soon. Hey, did you know Damien Wilkins is Dominique Wilkins’s nephew? You did? Well you’re a very knowledgeable basketball fan.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE
Basically the same thing we saw three weeks ago. The Celtics evacuated the Hawks from Philips Arena with a 39-point first quarter in their last matchup, the C’s highest-scoring quarter of the year, so it would be nice to demoralize the Hawks early again. I’d also like to see Semih play something recognizable as basketball and Nate play as well as he has in past games with Rondo out.
One monster caveat, though: the starters played pretty heavy minutes last night, and given Doc’s preference for resting his dogs over winning basketball games, extended time for the bench could keep this one close.
Eh, not that close. C’s 92, Hawks 86