Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics Preview and Pick

Atlanta Hawks +5.5 (43-32) at Boston Celtics -5.5 (57-19) 7:30 PM ET Friday April 3, 2009
By Jason Green at

Tonight the Hawks head north to play the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are currently in the 2nd position in the East, but they only lead the 3rd place Orlando Magic by 1 game. The Hawks sit in the 4th position and have to stay there and not slip to the 5th position in order to host a first round playoff series. The Hawks are a great home team (29-9), but are 9 games under .500 in away games. The Hawks currently have a 3.5 game lead over the 5th place Philadelphia 76ers.

The Celtics will have a harder time staying in the second position, as they will miss Kevin Garnett for the next 4 games. This is a rematch of last year’s first round playoff series, which the Celtics won but the Hawks took them to 7 games. The Hawks can head into the playoffs with some momentum and confidence if they can win tonight in Boston. The Celtics have won 3 games in a row and are 7-3 in their last 10 games and the Hawks are coming off a loss and are 6-4 in their last 10 games.

This season the Celtics are 31-6 at home and the Hawks are 14-23 in away games.

Hoops bookies have the Celtics as 5.5-point favorites in this game with a total around 186. The Celtics are posted at -240 as home favorites and the Hawks are posted at +190 as away dogs.

The Celtics come into this game after a double overtime win over the Charlotte Bobcats 111-109 on Wednesday night. The high scorer in that game was Paul Pierce going for 32 points on 10/20 shooting. For the game the Celtics shot well going 41/77 from the field for a FG% of 53.2%. On D the Celtics allowed the Bobcats to shoot 47/102 for a FG% of 46.1%.

The Hawks come into this game after losing to the Philadelphia 76ers 98-85 on Tuesday night. The high scorer for the Hawks in that game was Josh Smith going for 33 points on 13/15 shooting. For the game the Hawks shot 29/65 for a FG% of 44.6%. On D the Hawks allowed the 76ers to shoot 37/79 for a FG% of 46.8%.

This season the Celtics rank 12th in scoring (100.9 ppg) and the Hawks rank 21st (98 ppg). On D the Celtics rank 2nd in points allowed (92.8 ppg) and the Hawks rank 10th (96.2 ppg). The Celtics are the best team in the league in terms of rebound differential at +4.9 rpg, while the Hawks are only at -1.8 rpg.

This season the Celtics are 38-36-1 ATS and the Hawks are 42-33. In terms of Over/Under games the Celtics are 35-39-1 and the Hawks are 34-40-1.

On the injury front PF Kevin Garnett is day-to-day and SG Tony Allen is Out for the Celtics while the Hawks are not reporting any significant injuries.

For the Hawks to have any chance in this game they have to keep the Celtics from dominating the glass. That responsibility will fall on Hawks C Al Horford (11.2 ppg 9.2 rpg) if he does not hit the glass hard tonight it will give the Celtics many 2nd chance opportunities.

The Hawks also have to find their shooting stroke, as in their last game Josh Smith was on fire going 13/15 from the floor, but the rest of the Hawks only shot 32%. It will not be easy tonight, as the Hawks face one of the toughest defenses in the league tonight in the Celtics.

Mike Bibby (14.9 ppg) has to score and distribute the ball well to both Josh Smith (15.3 ppg) and Joe Johnson (21.4 ppg).

With KG out tonight Paul Pierce (20.4 ppg) and Ray Allen (18.5 ppg) will have to shoot the rock well. If the Hawks allow these two to bomb from the outside, especially beyond the 3-point arc, they will lose this game.

Tonight’s game may be a preview of a second round playoff match up.

Jason’s Pick: I like the Hawks to cover!