The playoffs begin in Atlanta - Let's go Celtics!

Kudos to QD for the graphic.

Boston Celtics (0-0) at Atlanta Hawks (0-0)
Sunday, April 29, 2012
7:00 PM ET
Round 1, Game #1, Road Game #1
Radio:  WEEI 
Philips Arena
Referees:  Mike Callahan, Marc Davis, John Goble 

These two teams met 3 times in the regular season with the Celtics winning once in Boston and once in Atlanta and the Hawks winning the final game in Atlanta.  The first two games were decided by a total of 5 points, including one overtime game.  The Hawks won the 3rd game by 5, but it was basically the Celtics 2nd and 3rd units versus the Hawks starters and they almost pulled it off. 

The Celtics basically conceded home court to the Hawks when they rested their starters in the final meeting between these two teams.  It came down to the final game of the season even with that.  But the message to the Hawks was clear,  the Celtics felt they could beat the Hawks without home court.  And part two of the message was that the Celtics reserves were strong enough to compete with their starters. 

Doc rested his starters down the stretch and played them sparingly in the final game of the season.  The Hawks starters, on the other hand, continued to play big minutes every game right until the end as they tried to gain the home court in the first round.  This could make a difference as this series continues. 

This series will not be easy by any stretch but I have to feel that the Celtics have the advantage in a 7 game series.  Injuries could be a factor in the series.  Ray Allen is 50/50 to play in this game and could be limited if he does play.  Al Horford is definitely out and Zaza Pachulia is a game time decision.   We've already seen key players lost for the rest of the playoffs in both the Bulls and Knicks series.  Hopefully both of these teams can play without further injuries but the injuries that they come into the series with make a difference.

Probable Starters

Point Guard:  Rajon Rondo  6'1"
11.9 PPG, 11.7 APG, 4.8 RPG, PER 17.55

Shooting Guard:  Avery Bradley  6'2"
7.6 PPG, 1.4 APG, 1.8 RPG,  PER 11.31

Small Forward:  Paul Pierce  6'7"
19.4 PPG, 4.5 APG, 5.2 RPG  PER 19.69

Power Forward:  Brandon Bass  6'8"
12.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.9 BPG,  PER 14.21

Center:  Kevin Garnett 6'11"
15.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.0 BPG, PER 20.47

Celtics Reserves
Mickael Pietrus
Greg Stiemsma
Sasha Pavlovic
Marquis Daniels
E'Twaun Moore
Ryan Hollins
Sean Williams
JaJuan Johnson
Keyon Dooling

Ray Allen (ankle) game time decision
Greg Stiemsma (feet) probable 

Probable Starters

Point Guard: Jeff Teague  6'2"
12.6 PPG, 4.9 APG, 2.4 RPG,  PER 15.83

Shooting Guard: Kirk Hinrich 6'4"
6.6 PPG, 2.8 APG, 2.1 RPG,  PER 9.28

Small Forward: Joe Johnson 6'7"
18.8 PPG, 3.9 APG, 3.7 RPG, 18.50 PER

Power Forward:  Josh Smith 6'9"
18.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.7 BPG, PER 21.14

Center Jason Collins 7'0"
1.3 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.1 BPG  PER 3.76

Hawks Reserves
Erick Dampier
Willie Green
Ivan Johnson
Tracy McGrady
Jannero Pargo
Vladimir Radmanovic
Jerry Stackhouse
Marvin Williams

Zaza Pachulia (foot) game time decision
Al Horford (pectoral) out

Key Matchups
Paul Pierce vs Joe Johnson
The offense on the Hawks goes through Johnson and one of the keys to stopping the Hawks is to stop Johnson.  Hopefully Pierce's defense on Johnson won't take away from his offense because the Celtics will need his points as well as his ability to play Johnson on the defensive end.  Mickael Pietrus or Sasha Pavlovic may also get a shot at guarding Johnson.  However they do it,  the Celtics must slow Johnson down. 

Brandon Bass vs Josh Smith
Smith is the Hawks second option on offense and he is their top rebounder.   Stopping Smith's offense is only half the problem, keeping him away from the basket and not allowing him to get rebounds and tip ins is also key in defeating the Hawks.  Bass will have his hands full slowing Smith down but doing so will be key to getting a win.

Doc Rivers vs Larry Drew
In the playoffs, coaching becomes more important.  Not only does the coach have to make in game adjustments but they also need to make adjustments from one game to the next.  This is one of Doc's strengths and Drew has yet to prove he is up to the task. 

Honorable Mention
Rajon Rondo vs Jeff Teague
As with every game, as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics.  Rondo needs to set the tempo of the game.  He also needs to take apart their defenses and make the offense work.  As always, he has the toughest job on the court.  And as always, I expect him to excel. 

Avery Bradley vs Kirk Hinrich
Hinrich is one of the weaker links in the Hawks' starting lineup.  Avery should be able to beat him up the floor just about every time.  If Teague gets hot we may see Rondo switch onto Hinrich and Avery cover Teague. 

Kevin Garnett vs Jason Collins
KG has been playing inspired basketball.  He was able to get some rest down the stretch for a troublesome hip flexor.  Hopefully it was enough to get him completely healthy.  With Horford out and Pachulia possibly out for the first couple of games, the likely starter is Collins.  KG should win this matchup hands down. 

Bench vs Bench
The Celtics bench proved in the last game between these two teams the Celtics reserves proved that they can be a force to be reckoned with, and that was without Pietrus or Ray.  The Celtics could very well still be without Ray, but Pietrus adds considerably to the Celtics second unit.  Advantage in this matchup should go to the Celtics. 

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics have made defense their calling card all season.  They are ranked 2nd in points allowed at 89.3 and first in FG% allowed at 41.9%.  They let their 3 point defense slip somewhat toward the end of the season and it will be important to guard the perimeter against the Hawks as they shoot 37% as a team from beyond the arc.  Defense becomes even more important in the playoffs and so the Celtics must play defense as a team and clamp down both in the paint and on the perimeter. 

Rebound - No rebounds, no win.  It's as simple as that.  The Celtics must crash the boards and keep the Hawks from getting tip ins and second chance baskets.   Smith is very good at getting to the hoop and tipping the ball in on misses.  The Celtics have to rebound as a team and box out, which was a foreign concept to them at times during the season.  Much of rebounding is desire, effort, and timing.  When the Celtics put out the effort on the boards, that effort often spreads to other areas of their game. 

Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the team that wants to win more.  They have to be aggressive on defense, in going after loose balls, in crashing the boards, and most importantly, in going to the basket and not settling for jumpers.  The more aggressive team will get the benefit of the calls from the refs and that has to be the Celtics. 

Official Report
Mike Callahan
A veteran of 21 NBA seasons, Mike Callahan has officiated 1,265 regular season and 110 playoff games and 11 NBA Finals games. He was a member of the crew that officiated the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, 1994 Mexico Challenge and the 1996 Schick Rookie Game. Prior to joining the NBA, Callahan spent three years officiating in the CBA, including the 1989 and 1990 CBA Finals. A member of the Cardinal O’Hara High School basketball team for four years, Callahan also coached the freshman basketball team after graduating. Callahan has run a clinic for referees called “Hoops4Heros” that benefits local fire departments and maintains strong ties to the Philadelphia community through his volunteer work with the Don Guanella School for developmentally disabled boys. Callahan is one of 4 refs to come out of Cardinal O'Hara High School in Pennsylvania. The other 3 are Joey Crawford, Ed Malloy and Tim Donaghy. The Celtics are 10-0 over their last 10 games with Callahan officiating. They are 2-0 this season, including one preseason game against Toronot where the Raptors shot 36 free throws to 34 for the Celtics. The other win was against Detroit where the Celtics shot 19 free throws to 15 for the Pistons. The Hawks are 6-4 with Callahan in their last 10 and 1-1 this season. He usually lets the teams play and isn't a tyrant with the whistle. His home W/L record this season is 26-24.

Marc Davis
Davis has been an NBA official for the past 14 seasons, working 802 regular season games and 35 playoff games, and the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. Davis officiated his first two Finals games during the 2010-11 season. In addition to his NBA experience, Davis has three years of CBA officiating experience, and three
years of collegiate basketball officiating experience. Davis was investigated for threatening to whoop Allen Iverson's a** when AI complained about a call in a game in 2005, but was not suspended for it. The Celtics are 1-2 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Davis officiating. One loss this season was a 1 point loss to the Cavs in which Davis and friends ignored a very obvious foul committed against Paul Pierce in the final seconds of the game and in which the Cavs shot 20 free throws to 14 for the Celtics. The second loss was to the Thunder in which the Celtics shot 34 free throws to 35 for the Thunder and the game was tightly called. The win was against the Hawks where the officiating was terrible. The Hawks shot 23 free throws to 13 for the Celtics. KG fouled out in that game on a terrible call. They were holding his jersey and had an elbow in his back and they called the foul on KG. Stiemsma fouled out shortly after on two more terrible calls. In the 4th quarter, 12 fouls were called on the Celtics and only 4 on the Hawks. In OT, 4 fouls were called on the Celtics while none were called on the Hawks, even through there were several very obvious fouls committed. Donny Marshall usually doesn't comment on the officiating but said that the Celtics needed to send the tape of this game to the league because Davis made it all about him. The Hawks are 2-2 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Davis on the court. His home W/L record of 27-22.

John Goble
Goble enters his fourth season having officiated 259 regular season games and seven playoff games. He also officiated the 2010 NBA All-Star Rookie/Sophomore game. Prior to working in the NBA, Goble officiated 104 games over four seasons in the NBA Development League and was selected to officiate the 2007 D-League Finals. He also officiated in several college conferences. Seems odd that Goble already has worked the playoffs with just 3 years of experience and others have been in the league 12 years or more and haven't cracked the playoff rotation yet. The Celtics are 4-0 this season and 8-2 over their last 10 games that Goble has officiated. The officiating was fairly even in all 4 games this season. The Hawks are 0-1 this season and 3-7 in their last 10 games with Goble. His home W/L record this season is 28-27.


On the Road and Officiating
The Celtics feel that they can win this series without home court.   The Hawks will likely get the benefit of home team calls from the refs and the Celtics have to overcome that.  They can't let the home court calls take them out of the game.    Crowds are usually hostile to the visiting team, but if the games during the regular season are any indication, there may be a good amount of Celtics fans in the crowd.  The Celtics will have to overcome the Hawks  part of the crowd and the officiating and the travel and the irritations of not being at home.  They felt they could do it.  Now is time to prove it.