The Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks for Game 2 of the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. The first game was a tale of two halves. The Celtics dominated and built a 30 point lead in the first half of Game 1 but then they slacked off in the second half, allowing the Hawks to cut the lead to 12 at one point. The Celtics ended up winning the first game 112-99.
The Hawks will come into this game with some momentum from the second half of Game 1 and they will come into the game looking to give it their best shot as they don’t want to go back to Atlanta down 0-2. Quin Snyder will study film and make some adjustments and so Joe Mazzulla will need to be ready to counter those adjustments with some of his own.
This is the thirteenth time that these two teams have met in the playoffs. Boston has won 10 of the 12 series so far. Their last meeting was in 2016 when the Hawks won the series 4-2. That off-season, the Celtics signed Al Horford away from the Hawks in free agency. The only other Hawks playoff win over the Celtics was in 1958 when the St. Louis Hawks won the series in 6 games. Since the Hawks moved from St. Louis to Atlanta in 1968, the Celtics have won seven of eight playoff series in this matchup.
Danilo Gallinari is the only Celtic on the injury list at this time for this game. Jaylen Brown had the cut in his hand reopen during Game 1. He didn’t need further stitches and at this time is expected to play in this game without restrictions. The Hawks have no one listed on their injury list.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Probable Hawks Starters
2 Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Trae Young
Young averaged 26.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 10.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game in the regular season. He shot 43.0% from the field and 33.5% from beyond the arc. In two games against the Celtics this season, Young averaged 31 points, 4 rebounds, and 11 assists per game. However, in Game 1, he had 16 points, 3 rebounds 8 assists and 2 steals. He shot just 27.8% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc. He will definitely come into this game looking to be more efficient and to have a big game. The Celtics will need to guard him tightly once again.
Derrick White vs DeJounte Murray
Murray averaged 20.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game in the regular season. He shot 46.4% from the field and 34.4% from beyond the arc. In 2 games against the Celtics this season, he averaged 16.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. Murray was the only Hawk to play very well in Game 1. He had 24 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. He shot 40% from the field but shot just 0-6 on 3 pointers. Murray is also one of the Hawks best defenders. The Celtics will need to work hard on both ends of the court to get the better of this matchup.
Malcolm Brogdon vs Bogdan Bogdanovic
In the regular season, Bogdanovic averaged 14 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists off the bench. He shot 44.7% from the field and 40.6% from beyond the arc. In Game 1 he finished with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Although he shot just 28.6% from beyond the arc in Game 1, He is a very good 3 point shooter and is a player the Celtics need to defend well as he could heat up quickly if left open. Malcolm Brogdon also had a less than stellar Game 1 with 5 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Hopefully he can get it going in this game.
Keys to the Game
Defense – Defense is always a key to winning games and defense becomes even more important in the playoffs. Defense is especially important for the Celtics in this game because the Hawks are a good scoring team, averaging 117.9 points per game, which is 4th in the league. The Celtics are 3rd, averaging 118.4 points per game. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 110.6 which is 2nd while the Hawks have a defensive rating of 115.4, which is 22nd. The Celtics showed championship defense in Game 1 but let that defense slip in the second half. The Celtics must make defense a priority in this game and they have to play that tough defense for 48 minutes and not let up.
Rebound – Next to defense, rebounding is a key to winning. Much of rebounding is effort and desire. When the Celtics put out the extra effort on the boards, it usually carries through to the rest of their game. The Hawks averaged 44.4 rebounds per game in the regular season (10th) while the Celtics averaged 45.3 rebounds per game (7th). In the 3 regular season games, Atlanta out-rebounded the Celtics 143-136. The Celtics were just 19-19 when they were out-rebounded in the regular season. The Hawks out-rebounded the Heat 63-39 in the play-in game. The Celtics out rebounded the Hawks 54-45 in Game 1. In the first half they out-rebounded the Hawks 32-18 but in the second half, the Celtics had just 26 rebounds to 27 for the Hawks. The Celtics need to aggressively go after every rebound. They can’t afford to give the Hawks extra possessions by allowing them to grab rebounds.
Take Care of the Ball – The Celtics averaged just 13.4 turnovers during the regular season (7th). Last year in the playoffs, they turned the ball over 353 times, which was the most of all the playoff teams. They had over 30 more turnovers than Golden State. In Game 1, the Celtics had 17 turnovers, which led to 19 points for the Hawks. The Celtics have to stay focused and not make careless passes and be careful not to allow the Hawks to get steals due to careless dribbling. They have to take care of the ball and not give Hawks easy points by turning it over.
Play Hard 48 Minutes – The Celtics played hard and played the right way in the first half of Game 1. They shot 60% from the field and 56.3% from beyond the arc in the first half and held the Hawks to 44 points in the first half. They lost focus, hustle and effort in the 2nd half, shooting just 34.9% from the field and 23.5% from beyond the arc. They also allowed the Hawks to out-rebound them by 1 in the second half. The Celtics scored just 38 points in the second half while allowing the Hawks to score 55 points on 44% from the field and 30.8% from beyond the arc. The Hawks are going to come out fired up and ready to play and the Celtics have to match that energy and effort to start. But, they also have to keep their focus, effort and energy throughout the game and not let up for any period of time in the game until the final buzzer.
Be Aggressive – The Celtics can’t afford to come in expecting an easy win after out-playing the Hawks in the first half of Game 1. That would be a big mistake because the Hawks play hard and will come at the Celtics hard, especially after the loss and after the Celtics gave them life in the 2nd half of Game 1. The Celtics must be the team that plays harder and that wants this win more. They have to be aggressive in diving for loose balls, in going to the basket, in getting stops on the defensive end, and in going after rebounds. The Celtics need to play with energy and aggressiveness for 48 minutes in this game with no let up.
Home Court– The Celtics are at home for the second straight game before heading to Atlanta for Game 3. The Hawks were just 17-23 on the road in the regular season while the Celtics were 32-9 at home. The Celtics need to take advantage of the home crowd, which should be loud and doing everything in their power to support the Celtics and rattle the Hawks. The Celtics must win their home games and not allow the Hawks to steal a game on their home court.
Coaching – The Hawks have a very veteran coach in Quin Snyder, but he has only been coaching the Hawks for 23 games. Snyder was head coach of the Utah Jazz for 8 seasons before resigning there. These are the 7th straight playoffs for Snyder, which is the longest streak by any active head coach. Game 2 is where coaching becomes even more important. Snyder will watch film and make adjustments and it will be up to Joe Mazzulla to counter those adjustments. Mazzulla won his first ever playoff game. Can he out coach the veteran and get two wins in a row?
Officiating – Officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game a little differently with some calling it tight and others letting them play. Some refs just make head scratching calls while others try very hard to get them right. In some games they call the 2 halves completely differently. Usually they allow more contact in the playoffs but that’s not a guarantee. The Celtics have to adjust to how the game is being called and focus on playing the game and not on the bad calls or no calls.