Soon after getting outplayed by the Atlanta Hawks for the second time this season, the Celtics are eager to take another crack at them.
“It’s the best thing in the world,” Kendrick Perkins said about the opportunity to play the Hawks only three days after suffering Friday night’s 93-85 loss.
But if the Celtics don’t change how they played the Hawks the past two times, Perkins may not be singing the same tune after the game.
During the teams’ last two meetings, Atlanta has been quicker, more physical, and simply possessed a greater desire to win than the Celtics. The Hawks are a good team, bordering on entering the ranks of NBA contenders, but don’t seem to be quite as good against anybody else as they are against the Celtics.
“I think, with Atlanta, they feel like they’ve got our number.” Perkins said. “They’re real comfortable with us, so I think when we go out we’re going to have to make it a physical game.”
He continued, “They are confident against us for some reason. But I watch them against other teams, I don’t see the same confidence. I don’t know what it is that they think they have with us, but we’ve got to solve it.”
Easier said than done. In the first game the two teams played, the Hawks dismantled Boston inside, with the strong, relentless play of Al Horford and co. leading to a 47-29 advantage on the boards and a 97-86 victory on the scoreboard. The second game, the Celtics were nearly even on the boards, but Jamal Crawford and Mike Bibby led an outside shooting barrage that held the Celtics at bay after a suffocating stretch of Atlanta defense limited Boston to only 15 third-quarter points.
The point is, the Hawks have beaten the Celtics in many ways, and their wins were no fluke. In both Hawks wins, they have clearly been the better team.
If the Celtics are going to change that, they’ll have to do some things differently than they have so far against Atlanta.
Priority number one?
Three things to look for in tonight’s game:
- Rajon Rondo- I like to give good insight into a game during my previews, but you don’t have to be a dumb Celtics blogger like myself to see that Rondo is quite a bit faster than Mike Bibby. If Rondo can neutralize Bibby when the Hawks have the ball, then he should be able to own the matchup. He should be able to drive by Bibby every time, and to use his superior quickness to keep Bibby from doing much damage.
- Energy level – The Hawks get up for every game against the Celtics like it’s Game Seven of the NBA Finals. If the Celtics are to reverse their skid tonight, they’ll need to match — or exceed — Atlanta’s intensity.
- Rasheed Wallace- The other night in Atlanta, Rasheed dropped a 5 for 15 dump, taking those 15 shots to score only 11 points and snatch only three rebounds. If he again plays like a 6’11″ cardboard cutout, the Celtics could be in trouble. But if Rasheed is engaged in the game and dialed in from downtown, it could really swing the game.