3/11 Matchup Preview: Celtics (46-21) at Hawks (33-33)
Coming off their first win in the last 4 games, the Celtics need to maintain their positive momentum as they travel to State Farm Arena to face the .500 Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, March 11th. It appears the team will be without starting center Robert Williams, who has missed most of the last week with a strained left hamstring. Even though the Hawks are struggling in their own right, being .500 for the season as well as 5-5 in their last 10, the Celtics have recently struggled to play with high effort against worse teams. This cannot be the case any longer, and it is time for the Celtics to kick it into high gear and punch the Hawks in the mouth.
Keys to the Game
The first, and most important objective for the Celtics, is to play hard for 48 minutes. There have been far too many times this season, especially as of late, where Boston gets a big lead early and coasts for the remainder of the game, allowing the losing team to gain momentum and steal the win. Jayson Tatum and company were able to return to form last game against Portland, where they got up 20 early in the game, and kept their lead until the final buzzer. I don't care if its the Hawks. Build on the performance against Portland and dominate this middling Atlanta team from start to finish.
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
Even though the Hawks are one of the lesser teams in the East, they play hard and they get boards. Their starting center, Clint Capela, averages 4.2 offensive rebounds a game this season, which is second only to Grizzlies big man Steven Adams with 5.1. Therefore, in order to beat this team without Rob Williams, the Celtics need to rebound by committee. Star players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have done a great job snagging boards this season, with them averaging 8.8 and 7.0 rebounds a game respectively. However, if Rob isn't able to play on Saturday, his 8.6 rebounds in only 24.2 minutes a game this season are going to be dearly missed. Therefore, it is up to everyone on the team, top to bottom, to fight for rebounds and refuse to give up any second chance points.
If the Celtics are going to end the regular season strong, the month of March is the time to do it. For the 11 games remaining this month, only 3 opponents have records over .500 (Minnesota, Sacramento, and Milwaukee). April is going to be a little harder, but now is the time for the Celtics to beat up on some bad teams and end the regular season on a high note. Every Celtics fan should have March 30th circled on their calendar, since its the fateful day that the Celtics will face a dominant Bucks team on the road. In all likelihood, the Celtics will have to get through the Bucks to get back to the Finals, and the Celtics need to use this game to send the Bucks, and the league as a whole, a strong message. But first, we have to beat the Hawks in Atlanta on Saturday. LFG.