Who?: Atlanta Hawks (5th in East) vs Boston Celtics (4th in East)
What?: 2012 NBA Playoffs – Eastern Conference First Round – Game 4
Where?: TD Garden (Boston, MA)
When?: Sunday, May 6 – 7:00 p.m. (ET)
How?: Atlanta – SportSouth HD (TV), TNT (TV) & 98.9 FM // Boston – Comcast Sportsnet (TV), TNT (TV) & 850 AM (WEEI)
Other Atlanta Hawks Coverage: Atlanta Hawks Fan Site, AJC Blog, Peachtree Hoops (SB Nation), Hoopinion (TrueHoop) ___________________________________________________________________________________
Projected Starting Lineups:
Atlanta Hawks: PG: Jeff Teague | SG: Kirk Hinrich | SF: Joe Johnson | PF: Josh Smith | C: Jason Collins
Boston Celtics: PG: Rajon Rondo | SG: Ray Allen | SF: Paul Pierce | PF: Brandon Bass | C: Kevin Garnett ___________________________________________________________________________________
Injury/Inactive Players Report:
Atlanta Hawks: Zaza Pachulia (sprained left foot) is day-to-day. Al Horford (left pectoral surgery) is out.
Boston Celtics: Avery Bradley (left shoulder) is a game-time decision.
Current Records/Streak & Hot, Lukewarm, or Cold:
Records: Atlanta Hawks are (40-27; 1-2). Boston Celtics are (40-27; 2-1)
Streak: Atlanta Hawks –> OVERALL: Lost 2 / HOME: Lost 1 / ROAD: Lost 1
Boston Celtics –> OVERALL: Won 2 / HOME: Won 1 / ROAD: Won 1
Away/Home Records: Atlanta is (17-17) on the road this season & Boston is (25-9) at home this season.
Against .500 teams: Hawks are (14-22) against teams over .500 & Celtics are (19-20) against teams over .500 this season.
Atlanta Hawks: Cold. The Hawks were granted a series-changing opportunity in Game 3 when Boston shot just 40% at home, but Atlanta still suffered a 90-84 defeat in overtime. After back-to-back losses, this is an absolute must-win as Josh Smith reportedly returns to the lineup to help the size-starved Hawks frontline.
Boston Celtics: Hot. With Rajon Rondo back in the lineup and posting a now-customary triple-double, the Celtics eeked out a 6-point home win and will look to take full control of the series by securing a 3-1 lead with a win on Sunday. Boston will have to overcome a desperate Hawks team to do so, but have the healthier/more complete roster for Game 4. ___________________________________________________________________________________
Season/Past Season Series:
* For the second straight year, the Hawks dropped the season series to the Celtics, 2-1.
* The teams met in the 2007-08 Playoffs (first round), with the top-seeded Celtics coming out with a 4-3 series win over the eighth-seeded Hawks, each team winning all their home contests … It was Atlanta’s first playoff series since the 1999 post-season.
* Doc Rivers played for Atlanta from 1983-91 and is the club’s all-time leader in assists (3,866).
* Joe Johnson was drafted by the Celtics (10th overall in 2001) and played in 48 games before being dealt to the Suns.
* Josh Smith and Rajon Rondo were roommates at Oak Hill Acadmey.
* Celtics assistant Armond Hill served in the same capacity with the Hawks in 2003-04 and is a former Hawk (six seasons).
* Doc Rivers coached Zaza Pachulia with Orlando in 2003-04.
* Hawks scout Greg Ballard coached Kevin Garnett (1999-2004) during his time with Minnesota.
* Celtics assistant coach Tyronn Lue was a Hawk from 2004-08 (189 games).
PLAYOFF GAME #1 (Apr. 29) ATL 83, BOS 74 – (Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA)
The Hawks led from start to finish, knocking off the Celtics 83-74 at Philips Arena on Sunday to take a 1-0 series lead … Josh Smith led the way with 22 points and a postseason career-best 18 rebounds … Jeff Teague scored 15 points, Kirk Hinrich 12 and Joe Johnson 11 … Atlanta opened the game on a 20-6 run, pushed the lead to as many as 17, before settling for a 31-18 edge after one … Both teams played solid defense in the quarter but the Hawks won the stanza, 18-17, to take a 49-35 advantage at the break (after being up 19) … Boston managed to cut it to 65-53 after three and 78-74 with one minute to play, but Johnson, Smith and Teague all hit clutch free throws down the stretch to ice it for the home team … The Celtics finished 0-11 from three-point range and shot .390 overall … Atlanta won the battle of the boards 50-41 … Kevin Garnett (20 points\12 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (20 points\11 assists) each had double-doubles for the Celtics … The Hawks reserves outscored their Boston counterparts 17-4.
PLAYOFF GAME #2 (May 1) BOS 87, ATL 80 – (Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA)
The Hawks let an 11-point second half lead get away, falling to Boston 87-80 at Philips Arena on Tuesday … Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 22 points, Jeff Teague put in 18 and Josh Smith tallied 16 points and 12 rebounds before leaving the game late with a sprained left knee … A backand-forth opening quarter, featuring 6 ties and 5 lead changes, ended with the teams deadlocked at 24 … Both clubs struggled shooting in the first half but it was Atlanta taking a 44-41 advantage to the break … Paul Pierce had 16 points for Boston in the first 24 minutes, while Teague put in 12 for the Hawks … The Hawks led by as many as 11 in the third but the Celtics were able to trim it to 66-61 heading to the final frame … Boston reclaimed the lead at 72-70 with 6 minutes to play in the game and slowly pulled away as the offense abandoned Atlanta in the fourth (14 points) … The Hawks shot .349 from the field for the game and made 16-20 FTs, while the Celtics shot .426 and hit 26-31 from the charity stripe … Pierce posted game-highs of 36 points and 14 rebounds, and Kevin Garnett had 15 points and 12 boards.
PLAYOFF GAME #3 (May 4) BOS 90, ATL 84 (OT) – (TD Garden, Boston, MA)
The Hawks fought back from a 7-point late-game deficit to tie the game and force overtime before losing the overtime battle by 6… Joe Johnson led the scoring for Atlanta with 29 points (on 11-28 shooting) to go along with 8 rebounds, while Jeff Teague added 23 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds, and Tracy McGrady posted 12 points and 9 rebounds off of the bench… Boston won the rebounding battle 51 to 48 on the strength of a weakened Hawks front-line playing without leading rebounder Josh Smith… Both teams failed to shoot 41% from the field… Rajon Rondo posted a triple-double for the Celtics with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 12 assists… The Celtics converted 22 of 25 free throws (88%) versus just 12 of 15 (80%) for the Hawks. ___________________________________________________________________________________
Josh Smith is expected to play after missing Game 3 with a strained left knee tendon. This is a God-send for a Hawks team that failed to out-rebound Boston in Game 3 (while Boston posted the league’s worst rebounding numbers this season), and failed to generate offense outside of iso-Joe. Atlanta received reasonable contributions from McGrady (12 points) and Dampier (6 points, 6 rebounds), but both players should have their roles significantly diminished with the return of Smith and that’s a positive on both counts.
The Celtics are at relatively full-strength with Ray Allen having played 37 minutes in Game 3 and looking good in doing so. Avery Bradley has a reportedly banged up shoulder, but Doc Rivers was quick to attribute this injury as a “season-long” one and dispelled any limits on Bradley’s play going forward.
Josh Smith’s level of health will likely show immediately, and the Hawks are in desperate need of a rebounder/rim-protector at the very least out of Smith. Also a concern could be his penchant for jump-shooting being magnified by a lack of mobility on the offensive end. In the end, Tracy McGrady will be asked to show that he can quickly recover after playing 41 minutes, and Erick Dampier may have earned some additional playing time with his production level on Friday night. Joe Johnson will be asked to carry a significant offensive load again in this game, and while the addition of Smith helps clear space for him, the iso-Joe offense has failed to yield significant dividends in the past against a well-oiled defensive machine like Boston.