Celtics Will Need Team Effort to Avoid Repeating Last Season’s Struggles Against Hawks

Celtics Will Need Team Effort to Avoid Repeating Last Season's Struggles Against Hawks Two games in a row, the Celtics have come out overconfident and unprepared, and two games in a row, they’ve paid the price for it. After embarrassing consecutive losses home against the Thunder and away against the Raptors, the C’s have a chance to recover, but it’s in difficult enemy territory.

The C’s are up against an Atlanta Hawks team that completely owned them last season, and they’ll be out for revenge. If they can’t get up for this matchup, something’s seriously wrong.

When and Where

Celtics at Hawks
Monday, Nov. 22, 7 p.m. (CSNNE)
Philips Arena, Atlanta, Ga.

Head to Head

There’s no streakier matchup in recent NBA history than Celtics-Hawks. After acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the summer of 2007, the C’s went on an unbelievable tear against the Hawks, winning seven consecutive regular-season games between ’07 and ’09. Then last season, they lost all four meetings, and none of them were even close —  the Hawks won the four games by margins of 11, eight, six and nine. What will this season bring? The C’s will be looking to get even.

Key Matchup

Kevin Garnett vs. Josh Smith

KG is 34, slowing down, and becoming a perimeter player now more than ever. Smith is 24, he’s athletic, he blocks tons of shots, and he makes acerbating plays on both ends of the floor. This is a really tough matchup for the Celtics’ veteran leader — he doesn’t have the legs of an explosive 24-year-old power forward anymore, but can he fake it for 48 minutes? The Celtics could really use it.

Starting Lineups

Celtics

Point guard: Nate Robinson
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Shaquille O’Neal

Hawks

Point guard: Mike Bibby
Shooting guard: Joe Johnson
Small forward: Marvin Williams
Power forward: Josh Smith
Center: Al Horford

Stat Sheet

Celtics

  • Nate Robinson had 22 points, four rebounds and two assists against the Raptors on Sunday. It was statistically his best game in a Celtic uniform.
  • Kevin Garnett leads the Celtics in rebounds this season with 121.
  • Shaquille O’Neal has career averages of 22.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 blocks per game against the Hawks.

Hawks

  • Al Horford is shooting 65.3 percent from the field, best in the NBA.
  • Josh Smith leads the league with 39 blocks.
  • Joe Johnson is averaging 18.5 points per game this year. He averaged 20-plus in each of his first five seasons as a Hawk.

Black and Blue

Celtics

  • Rajon Rondo sat out Sunday afternoon in Toronto with a strained left hamstring. He is likely to miss Monday night as well.
  • Jermaine O’Neal is out with a knee injury.
  • Kendrick Perkins has a torn ACL and will be out until 2011.

Hawks

  • Pape Sy is out indefinitely with a strained lower back.

Outlook

It looks likely that the Celtics will again be without Rajon Rondo, and if that’s the case, the game changes dramatically. The C’s will need Robinson and Ray Allen to apply relentless ball pressure against the Hawks, who will look to play a slow-paced, efficient offensive game against the C’s on their home court. Stopping the Hawks’ attack without Rondo won’t be easy, but it’s got to be a total team effort. The Celtics couldn’t get the job done in Atlanta last season, but this is their chance to turn things around.

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