The Boston Celtics return home tonight from their west coast swing to face off against the medial Atlanta Hawks. Both teams have a long list of injuries. The C’s will be without Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley, while the Hawks will be missing Pero Antic and Gustavo Ayon, and Paul Millsap may miss the game as well. With so many capable players sitting out due to injury, tonight’s game can really go in any direction.
The Celtics have been without Bradley for quite some time and Chris Johnson and Jerryd Bayless have had to shoulder the load during his absence. Oh and he has been missed! While Bayless has shown ability on the offensive end, he is getting torched by opposing guards. The opposite rings true for Johnson, though his defense hasn’t been much better as of late. The entire team defense has been lousy over the last two weeks and coach Brad Stevens should be thrilled that the team is back in its comfort zone at the Garden.
If Millsap is out, look for the Hawks to lean on Jeff Teague and Lou Williams for their offense. Both players have been playing well as of late and their presence is why I brought up the poor play from the two-guard spot. Both Teague and Williams could go for 20-plus tonight with ease, especially if the Celtics interior defense continues to disappoint.
But the Hawks also have plenty of weaknesses that the Celtics can exploit. Jeff Green should have a field day with the likes of Mike Scott and DeMarre Carroll defending him. He is much faster than both players and should be attacking the rim constantly. Though this usually means that we will see Green hoist seven or eight threes and score 17 points on about 4-15 shooting.
Finally, neither team has much depth right now due to injuries. The second units of these clubs are going to be hard to watch. If Kelly Olynyk comes off the bench, he could be the difference in the battle between these groups. After reading that last sentence, I just teared up a bit…
Prediction: Celtics 92, Hawks 87