Game preview: Celtics at Hawks


Here’s what to know about when the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics face off on Monday night:

When/where: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Philips Arena

TV: Fox Sports Southeast

Stream: Fox Sports Go

Radio: 92.9 The Game

Injuries: Hawks— DeAndre’ Bembry (fractured right wrist), Ersan Ilyasova (bone bruise, left knee), Mike Muscala (sprained left ankle) and Miles Plumlee (strained right quad) are out. Marco Belinelli (sore left Achilles), Malcolm Delaney (sprained right ankle) is probable and Dennis Schroder (sprained left ankle) are probable.

Budenholzer said Belinelli will play and Delaney will be “dressed and available.”

Who will start:

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Luke Babbitt and Dewayne Dedmon will start against the Celtics.

What to watch for:

Coming off their first win since the season opener, the Hawks (2-8) return home to host the Boston Celtics (8-2) who arguably have the best defense the Hawks have faced all season.

The Celtics allowed opposing teams a league-best average of 93.2 points per game while the Hawks have allowed opponents an average of 110.6 points per game, 26th in the NBA.

“I think they're really long, really physical on the defensive end of the court,” Budenholzer said. “I think they're rebounding the ball really well... And then offensively, they do a great job of executing."

Led by Kyrie Irving and former Hawk Al Horford, the Celtics (8-2) are red hot on an eight-game win streak. Irving leads the team in points per game (27.4), assists per game (5.6) and the league in steals per game (2.4) while Horford leads the team in rebounds per game (9.1).

“(Horford’s) such a good player and a smart player... Now I’m not very happy about (his success), but when he was here, it was fun to do it with him.”

This season, Horford averages 14.6 points per game and is shooting 55 percent from the field and 51.5 percent beyond the arc.

"Obviously, it's easy to see what he does from the stat perspective, but he does everything else that people don't see. It doesn't always get discussed. He's terriffic on both ends of the floor and that's been pretty consistent the whole time he's been here. He's obviously gotten more comfortable with how we're trying to do things and you can see it in the Playoffs."

In the past two games, the Celtics defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder (101-94) and Orlando Magic (104-88).

The Hawks were fortunately able to find some scoring prowess on Sunday against the Cavaliers with all five starters and two players off the bench scoring in the double-digits on the road.

“I think the way that they're playing especially with a couple of guys out is they're just playing small and fast," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "The biggest key obviously is you have to guard them in transition. You have to be great at guarding the dribble. They make it very tough because they are playing small so they'll be switching... They really try to take advantage of the matchups on the dribble so everybody's got to be really alert."

The Celtics have allowed opponets to shoot 42.4 percent from the field, fourth in the league, and 30.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc, the best in the league.

Despite Boston having the best record in the NBA and a vicious defense, they sit in the bottom third of the league in points scored per game (102.9), one spot up from the Hawks. This season, the Hawks averaged 102.7 points per game, 24th in the league.

"I do think we're really going to have to improve offensively, we have to be able to score to win," Stevens said.

Notes

  • With Delaney potentially returning from his ankle injury he suffered against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, watch to see if Isaiah Taylor still plays as much as he's played in the past two games. In the past two games, Taylor scored 26 points and played 51 minutes over the past two games. 
  • Luke Babbitt started on Sunday in Cleveland and recorded 17 points, tied for second-most on the team along with Taurean Prince. Babbitt hit 6 of 13 from the field and 4 of 8 beyond the arc in his 42 minutes. Budenholzer said despite Babbitt’s extended time on the floor, he played well at Monday morning’s shootaround.
  • Horford only recorded 20 points and 17 rebounds in three games against his former team last season. The Celtics only lost one game against the Hawks last season on Feb. 27.


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