Tip: 7:00 PM Court: Philips Arena Watch it: TNT/CSNNE Hear it: WEEI
Referees: Mike Callahan, Marc Davis, John Goble (alternate: Kane Fitzgerald)
The Celtics won the season series against Atlanta, but each game was decided by single digits. The Hawks won the last game, 97-92, in a game that saw Doc sit Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen.
Get it to: Whomever Jason Collins is guarding
Without Zaza Pachulia, Collins will get the start and will either have to guard Kevin Garnett or Brandon Bass, with Josh Smith guarding the other. I'm not sure how the Hawks will play it, but someone will have a mis-match. That's the guy who should get the ball. Often.
I'm hoping Collins starts on KG. Because KG can take advantage of the matchup and, when the Hawks give Collins help, Garnett can pass out of that and find the open guy. If the Hawks are smart, they put Collins on Bass since he's less likely to pass.
Gotta stop: Joe Johnson
Will it be Avery Bradley on Johnson, or will it be Pierce as the Hawks start Kirk Hinrich at the 2 spot and slide Johnson to the 3?
If it's Bradley, he'll have his work cut out for him against Johnson, who is six inches taller. But Bradley has the ability get up close and prevent any drives to the basket and maybe force a few turnovers. If it's Pierce, he'll have his work cut out for him because Johnson can penetrate. But Pierce has the ability to use his body to cut off angles and the height to contest any Johnson jumpers.
The Wild Card: The Celtics bench
I'll include Ray as a possibility,but I know he's probably not going to see any time. That means Sasha Pavlovic will be called on to contribute. Greg Stiemsma is going to have to rise above the jitters and insanity that awaits him before tip off. And Mickael Pietrus is going to have to get past any lingering knee pain. If the C's 2nd unit and match it's recent production starting 2nd quarters, the Celtics will make short work of this series.
How we see it goin' down
The Hawks are going to want to come out strong in front of what will probably be a crazy crowd. Say what you will about Hawks fans in the regular season, they show up in the playoffs. The Hawks will come out and throw a barrage of punches at the C's. They need to stay calm, and focus on simply weathering the early storm and then counter punching.
The bottom line is the Celtics hold most of the positional advantages. They've got a better coach, the better pedigree, and the better record over the past couple of months. The Celtics will steal game one of this series, 95-90, with Rajon Rondo flirting with another triple double.