May 1, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) carries the ball on a fast break during the second half of game two in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Celtics won 87 - 80. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE

Boston Celtics Playoff Push: Game Three


After a spectacular comeback effort by Paul Pierce and the C’s on Tuesday, they’re looking to come back at full strength to take a 2-1 series lead over the upstart Atlanta Hawks.

Everything is leaning into the Celtics favor at this point.

They’ve stolen homecourt from Atlanta by winning one on their home floor after a very aggressive showing from the Hawks. If the Hawks wanted to put a chokehold on the series, that would have been the game to do it. The key cog to the Celtic’s engine, Rajon Rondo, was out and also sharp shooter Ray Allen didn’t play as well. Without these two key players in the lineup Atlanta could have won that game easily.

Now the tables have turned and Atlanta is the team that is dealing with some serious injury issues. Josh Smith will not play in game three tonight due to a knee sprain that he suffered in the final minutes of game two. ZaZa Pachulia and Al Horford aren’t able to go either, so they’re frontcourt is paper thing right now.

What to look for

The Hawks will have to increase Ivan Johnson and Vladmir Radmonovic’s playing time exponentially in order to make up for these significant losses. Rim protection may be thrown out of the window here, so Atlanta will probably try to go small against the C’s more often than not. Look for a lineup where Marvin Williams will play the four and Ivan Johsnon will play the 5 with Teague, Hinrich, and Johnson filling in the other three slots as guards.

Since Randmonovic will get more minutes in this game, there will be more space to penetrate because of his ability to stretch the floor with his jumpshot. Jeff Teague must be kept from out of the paint. To do that, Boston will stick Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo on him. They’ll probably rotate duty more often than not just to give Teague a different look and keep him from getting comfortable.

Ray Allen’s status

If Allen is able to go tonight, that’ll add the scoring punch from off the bench that the Celtics have been looking for this whole series. They’ll make more than three three-point attempts tonight unlike what they have struggled to do in the past two games. Ray adds a whole new dynamic to the game that the Hawks won’t be able to handle without Josh Smith’s defensive presence and shot blocking ability.

Allen is reportedly a game time decision tonight once again, but there have been reports that he’s feeling well. Without their defensive leader, the Hawks will struggle to contain a Rondo and Allen or Pierce and Allen combination.

Also, the Pick and Roll just got that much less dangerous without Smith in the line up. Boston hadn’t been able to control it all series long. Smith was getting to wherever he wanted on the floor and hurting the Celtics where he could. Without him, they don’t have a player that can dive in the paint after setting a screen. This will make their offensive attack so much more predictable.

I think that the Celtics win big and set the tone without Smith in the line-up tonight. Get ready for a good one folks.

Tags: Atlanta Hawks Boston Celtics Josh Smith Rajon Rondo Ray Allen