Boston: 98.9 points/100 possessions (24th)
Atlanta: 102.4 points/100 possessions (14th)
Boston: 95.5 points/100 possessions (2nd)
Atlanta: 98.6 points/100 possessions (6th)
Probable Hawks Starters: Jeff Teague (PG), Kirk Hinrich (SG), Joe Johnson (SF), Josh Smith (PF), and Jason Collins (C)
Injury Report: Ray Allen is out for the C’s. Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia are still out.
The Celtics will need both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to step up tonight if they want to have a chance to go back to Boston with the series tied 1-1.
As Ryan explained yesterday, Pierce doesn’t have a problem playing the point forward position. And if you really think about it, is there any other person on the Celtics that you would rather have as a high usage point guard than Pierce? Over the years, Doc Rivers has experimented with Ray Allen, Delonte West, Tony Allen, Nate Robinson and various other combo guards when Rajon Rondo wasn’t available and it’s safe to say that employing Pierce in that role this season has been the most successful. With the ball in Pierce’s hands, the Hawks will have to completely change their game plan. They won’t be able to go under screens and play off Rondo like the Hawks did in Game 1. The Hawks were really successful in cutting down passing angles and turning Rondo into a primary scorer. If they decide to employ the same strategy with Pierce, they’ll likely get burned big time. Keeping the Hawks honest with guarding Pierce is going to have great downstream effects in terms of touches for Brandon Bass and Garnett. They’ll look to be beneficiaries of more open jumpers and I expect them to be able to knock them down with regularity.
I’m also not too worried about this weird, make-shift lineup Rivers is trotting out to start the game. The unit of Avery Bradley, Michael Pietrus, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, and Kevin Garnett has played close to 60 minutes together and they been largely successful according to Basketball Value. It’s not ideal, but it’s not worst-case-scenario.
I mentioned in the 5-on-5 Series Preview that Josh Smith and Joe Johnson would have to play like the elite of the elite to beat the Celtics. Turns out, I have half right. Smith had maybe the best game of any player in the playoffs. 22 points and 18 rebounds are video game numbers. Or Al Jefferson-in-high-school numbers. I don’t expect him to make as many jump shots. I don’t expect Smith to snag as many rebounds. But, I also don’t expect Joe Johnson or the Celtics to shoot as poorly as they did in Game 1.
Celtics 90, Hawks 85