Watch It! - Hawks at Celtics
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.
Olynyk’s Night To Shine?
Anyone who watched Boston’s loss to Utah Monday night had to have been wishing for Kelly Olynyk to be given 30-plus minutes of playing time. He was by far the best player on the court for the Celtics as he tied for the game high in scoring (21 points) and rebounding (eight boards) while also dishing out four assists.
Despite Olynyk’s fantastic effort, Brad Stevens only gave the big man 28 minutes of action. That number may be on the rise tonight.
Stevens has not been shy about shaking up his starting lineup this season. The Celtics are listing Jared Sullinger as out with a concussion, which means his starting spot is up for grabs. Seeing as Olynyk outplayed spot-starter Kris Humphries on Monday, it’s within the realm of possibility that Stevens could insert his rookie big man into the starting lineup tonight. Also in Olynyk’s corner is the fact that he scored 21 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out five assists during these teams’ last meeting on Dec. 31.
Hawks Aren’t Flying
It wasn’t long ago that the Atlanta Hawks were four games over .500 and on their way to a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. That was on Feb. 1, when they were 25-21. Boy, has a lot changed since then.
Atlanta has gone on to lose nine of its 10 games since that date and has dropped all the way to 26-30 on the season. The Hawks now stand as the eighth seed in the East, just 3.5 games ahead of the Pistons.
It didn’t take long, but Atlanta has gone from expecting to host a playoff series to now fighting for its playoff life. To be blunt, the Hawks just aren’t playing very good basketball right now.
Two Depleted Rosters
One of the reasons why the Hawks have been struggling so badly is because they’re depleted with injuries. They can’t complain tonight, though, because the Celtics are in the same boat.
Atlanta lists five players as out for tonight’s game. All-Star big men Paul Millsap (right knee contusion) and Al Horford (right pectoral surgery) headline the group. Pero Antic (right ankle fracture), Gustavo Ayon (right shoulder) and John Jenkins (lower back surgery) are also out.
Boston’s list isn’t quite as long but it is just as impactful. The C’s are currently without two starters as Sullinger and Avery Bradley (right ankle sprain) continue to recover from their injuries. Boston also hasn’t had Vitor Faverani available since he injured his left knee on Feb. 4.
Needless to say, these two teams are currently playing with limited options. The Hawks and Celtics are doing their best to compete until their key players return.
Atlanta’s Second Night of a Back-to-Back
There’s no doubt that tonight’s game will be one of the toughest of the season for the Hawks to win. They are playing with a depleted roster and they’re playing in the second night of a back-to-back.
The Hawks fell to the Bulls by a score of 107-103 last night in Atlanta. Head coach Mike Budenholzer basically went with a seven-man rotation during that game, as seven of his players logged between 26 and 42 minutes of action. Elton Brand, who is in his 15th season, played a team-high 42 minutes.
There is nothing about this situation that Budenholzer and his staff can like. The odds are certainly against the Hawks tonight as they play for the second time in as many days.
TD Garden Should be Rocking
Pop quiz: When was the last time one of Boston’s major sports teams had a home game?
Answer: Two weeks ago on Feb. 12.
It has been a full 14 days since this city had an opportunity to get out and support its teams. The Celtics hosted the Spurs on Feb. 12 and then moved into the All-Star break before heading out West for a four-game road trip. The Bruins have been off since Feb. 8 for the Winter Olympics.
We all know how rowdy this city’s fans can be on a regular night. The fact that they have two full weeks of fandom built up inside of them should have the Garden rocking tonight.