Hawks Look to Put Stranglehold on Celtics Series

Hawks F Mike Scott blocks Celtics G Marcus Smart Kevin C. Cox/NBAE/Getty Images

Tonight, the Hawks can do something they haven’t done since 1970; take a 3-0 series lead. If Atlanta wins, they would pretty much clinch the series as no team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit. Entering this game with a 2-0 deficit, you can expect that the Celtics will come out playing with a high level of desperation.

On Tuesday, the Hawks could not have asked for a better start in game two. The Hawks blitzed out to a 24-3 lead seven minutes in to the game which featured multiple Korver three’s and the smothering defense proved to many why they were one of the best in the league this season. After that point, the Hawks suddenly went cold but it didn’t matter because the Celtics couldn’t have thrown the ball in The Hoop if they we’re standing on a bridge over it. Boston’s seven first quarter points was their record for lowest points in a playoff quarter. Pretty impressive given their playoff history. The Celtics tried to battle back early in the 2nd, but could never get the lead lower than 10. The Celtics once again went cold over the final six minutes of the quarter and ended up with a dismal 28 points at the half. Unlike in game one, the Celtics couldn’t find their grove in the 2nd half; repeatedly missing shots and getting blocked right and left. Luckily for Boston, other than that first quarter blitz the Hawks didn’t exactly have their best game. The Hawks shot only 39% from the field while hitting 11-29 from three. If the Hawks would’ve shot near their normal percentage this could’ve easily been a 30+ point blowout.

The Hawks have to feel good that they’ve yet to played a solid game on offense this series but still have a 2-0 lead. One of the biggest reasons Atlanta has struggled this series is the offensive production of Paul Millsap. He’s had a rough offensive start to this series. The Hawks should look to get him going like they did with Kyle Korver in game two. Millsap has only averaged 9 PPG on 30% shooting so far.

The Hawks will have to withstand Boston’s first punch today, which will surely be strong. They will be playing with a lot of pride and desperation. No team wants to go down 0-3 in front of their home fans.

Keys to the Game
Contain Isaiah Thomas: IT has been the only player to establish any rhythm for the Celtics so far this series. If we can marginalize his impact, it could be another blowout.

Get Millsap going: Like I stated earlier, Millsap has struggled so far this series. He needs to get it going in preparation for a potential matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Bench Production: After a dismal game one showing, the bench was much better in game two providing 23 points. We’ll need some more help off the bench if Dennis Schroeder isn’t able to give it a go. He’s currently listed as a game time decision due to an ankle sprain he suffered late in game two’s victory.

Jump out to a fast start: Like in the first two games, it’s imperative to jump out to a fast start. Make the Celtics fight from behind again.

Starting Lineups
G Jeff Teague
G Kyle Korver
F Kent Bazemore
F Paul Millsap
C Al Horford
G Isaiah Thomas
G Marcus Smart
F Jae Crowder
F Amir Johnson
C Jared Sullinger 
Gametime is set for 8PM on ESPN2 and FSSE with Bob & Nique. STATS in Downtown Atlanta is hosting a viewing party as well. Game 4 is Sunday at 6 on TNT & FSSE and game 5 will be Tuesday at 6,7 or 8:30 if necessary. 
Phil Veasley 

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