We’ll find out a lot about the Hawks tonight, though I’m sure what interests you is learning more about the Celtics.
The Celtics beat the Knicks in four games during last year’s playoffs, a sign that they can close the door when they need to. Two playoffs ago, the Celtics lost potential close-out games against the Heat and Magic before winning those two series. The Celtics had a 3-2 lead on the Lakers before dropping the final two games of the 2010 NBA Finals.
In 2008, the Celtics went up, 3-2, on the Hawks, before losing Game 6 in Atlanta. The Celtics won Game 7.
A 3-1 lead is exactly where the Celtics want to be tonight, but the Hawks are desperate. An Atlanta win forces the Celtics back home and puts a ton of pressure on them to win Game 6 and avoid an elimination game on the road.
Here are the details for tonight’s game:
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
Series: Celtics lead, 3-1
Broadcast info: TNT/CSNNE, WEEI/850 AM/93.7 FM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Brandon Bass
C: Kevin Garnett
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Joe Johnson
SF: Marvin Williams
PF: Josh Smith
C: Al Horford
Hawks lineup: Kirk Hinrich and Jason Collins are out of the starting lineup tonight for Atlanta, replaced by Marvin Williams and Al Horford. If Horford is anywhere near healthy, he’s much better than Collins. Williams gives the Hawks the size to match up with Paul Pierce, and he gives the Celtics a bit of a matchup problem on Joe Johnson. Does Pierce continue to guard Johnson, or does he switch onto Williams? In that case, Avery Bradley would have a difficult matchup with Johnson.
Turnovers: If Rajon Rondo can turn in another 16-assist, one-turnover game, it’s not going to much matter how Pierce or Ray Allen shoots or how healthy Bradley’s shoulder is. The Hawks had 17 turnovers to Boston’s 11 in Game 4. If the Celtics get sloppy the Hawks could get out in transition, get easy threes, etc. Those are bad things.
Ray Allen: Allen is 11 of 21 in his first two games back after missing 11 games with an ankle injury. That strong shooting is somewhat of a surprise, but it’s certainly been welcome. If Allen can continue to step up and knock down shots, the Celtics will be in good shape.