The last meeting between these teams became a season altering game for the Boston Celtics. Rajon Rondo tore his ACL in the fourth quarter of a 123-111 double-overtime loss for the Celtics. It appeared that Boston’s playoff chances took a serious hit that night, but to the contrary, the Celtics are 13-4 since Rondo went down.
The Celtics (33-27) have won four games in a row, and haven’t lost at home since January against the New York Knicks. The Hawks (34-26) on the other hand have been steadily dropping in the standings. They now find themselves just one game ahead of Boston for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
One of the biggest keys to Boston’s surge has been Jeff Green. He’s averaging 15.4 points per game in his last 10 games, and has filled in for Rondo as a new source of offense. After missing all of last season due to heart surgery, Green had his greatest moment as a Celtic with a game winning layup against Indiana on Wednesday.
Just several weeks before, Green found his name at the center of trade deadline rumors, as the Celtics reportedly pursued Atlanta’s Josh Smith. Green figures to matchup against Smith tonight, and will have a chance to prove Danny Ainge made the right move by standing pat.
While Green has solidified himself as Boston’s sixth man, Kyle Korver has done the same for Atlanta. Korver single handedly took over last meeting, fueling an Atlanta comeback from a 27-point deficit. He knocked down a franchise record eight 3-pointers, finishing with a season high 27 points.
Doc Rivers will turn to his “Pit Bull” backcourt of Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee to slow down Korver. The combination of those two have wreaked havoc on opposing team’s offensive plans, particularly Bradley who is garnering NBA All-Defensive Team consideration.
Bradley has become an anchor to the Celtics’ defense which ranks eighth in ppg allowed at 95.8. Atlanta is also a competent defensive team, ranking in the top half of the NBA in points allowed.
If Boston can secure a win tonight, they will ride a a five game win streak into Oklahoma City for a Sunday afternoon matchup on ABC.