The Celtics are at home tonight to take on the Atlanta Hawks for the fourth and final time this year. Boston currently leads the season series, taking two out of the previous three contests. Despite their success, the Cs find themselves 2.5 games behind the Hawks, who currently own the 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. For the Celtics, tonight's result will determine whether or not they'll be able to catch Atlanta before season's end. A 1.5 game gap is a lot easier to over come than a 3.5 game deficit, at least over a 10 game stretch that is.

Surprisingly enough, Boston has a lot of things going in there favor heading into this match-up. The first of which is good ole' Paul Pierce. Pierce loves playing Atlanta and it's apparent in his numbers. In 3 games the Captain is averaging 21.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. Tonight should be no different due to the fact that the Hawks don't really have an ideal player to assign to Pierce on the defensive end. Josh Smith is a good interior defender but he's never had success guarding Pierce's 3-point shot. However the same can be said for the Celtics not being able to contain Smith.

Smith logs 45.7 minutes every time he takes the floor against Boston. Unfortunately for the Celtics, Smith takes complete advantage of his playing time. In the same 3 games Smith is averaging a line of 20.3 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. Those numbers are nothing to scoff at. 

There's no doubt about it, Pierce and Smith are going to get their numbers in this game so that means other guys are going to have to step up, which leads me to another one of our advantages...

The Celtics have a 6'9 forward that goes by the name of Jeff Green and he's been playing absolutely out of his mind right now. In his last 3 games he's averaged 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 5 assists. All of these numbers are higher than his season averages and it looks like Green might have finally figured it out. Look for him to continue to play without a conscience and take it fearlessly to the hoop. Without Al Horford in uniform the Hawks will have a lot of trouble stopping Green at the rim.

And it doesn't stop there. More good news is on the way as A. Sherrod Blakely reported that Courtney Lee will return tonight but he won't start. Lee has missed the last three games due to an ankle injury. 
Bottom Line

With no Horford the Celtics odds of winning are that much better. If Boston wants to win they need to give Smith all the 3's he wants. If he makes his first one or two, he's going to chuck them up the whole game. For some reason Smith thinks he's Ray Allen but that couldn't be further from the truth. Atlanta does have their fair share of 3-point marksmen though in Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, and Kyle Korver. It's imperative that the Cs run them off their ideal shots and contest every time they put the ball up. 

If the Celts can do these little things, they'll be in great shape. It will all come down to how well we execute offensively and how well they take care of the basketball. The Celtics will win this game but it's going to be close. 

Injury Report

Boston - Kevin Garnett (Ankle), Jared Sullinger (Back), Rajon Rondo (Leg)
Atlanta - Al Horford (Stomach Illness), Devin Harris (Foot), Zaza Pachulia (Heel)


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