May 6, 2012, 3:30 PM EST
The Boston Celtics haven’t played exceptional basketball during their NBA Playoffs series against the Atlanta Hawks, but they’ve got the job done well enough to take a 2-1 lead heading into Sunday evening’s game at the Garden. Atlanta’s going to have to come up with some road magic of their own to end the weekend, however, if they’re going to keep the series competitive.
Since the Hawks posted their opening game victory, they’ve struggled running any sort of offense in the second half — and it didn’t help that Josh Smith missed Friday’s game with a leg injury, either, taking away the team’s best offensive threat from the series’ first two games. On the other end of the spectrum, the Celtics have watched Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo both put together big games to help Boston squeak out wins to take the lead in the series.
It’s difficult to try and predict anything based on what has happened in the first few games between these two teams, however, considering the key players will be changed once again for Sunday’s Game 4. First it was Ray Allen being absent from the lineup, then Rondo was suspended for Game 2, Smith missed Game 3 due to injury and now — on Sunday — it appears nearly all of the main contributors expected to play in this series (Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia are still absent) will play on Sunday … unless, of course, Avery Bradley‘s “game-time decision” due to a shoulder injury is turned into a DNP or the sprained ankle Tracy McGrady suffered on Friday night has flared up.
All of that said, the Hawks’ backs will be against the for Sunday’s game. A 3-1 deficit isn’t impossible to come back from, of course, but the momentum the Celtics have already built without playing their best basketball certainly won’t be dampered if they’re able to pick up another win at home.
For the Hawks to win, they’ll need to figure out how to stop Rondo from penetrating — Kirk Hinrich‘s seemed to play the best defense on him this series, for what it’s worth — while hoping Pierce doesn’t go into hero-mode and the tandem of Jason Collins and Ivan Johnson are able to keep Kevin Garnett from breaking out a retro scoring performance. Atlanta will need to rely on Joe Johnson and “Smoove” Smith, provided he’s healthy, on the offensive end while making sure the stagnant offense that has appeared in the second halves of Game 2 and 3 don’t appear again in Game 4.
Boston doesn’t have as many problems to worry about considering they’ve pulled out wins playing less than stellar basketball their past two games anyway. The Hawks will likely have some answers for Rondo and Pierce after being beat by them the past two games, but there’s a reason they’ve been referred to as the Big Four in the past — and Garnett or Allen likely wouldn’t mind reminding the national viewing audience, either, if anyone’s forgotten.
The onus is on the Hawks to show that they belong and, if it doesn’t happen on Sunday night, anything else will likely be too little, too late.
Dec 19, 2014, 5:59 PM EST
It’s kind of moot now, but it’s not a surprise.
Dec 19, 2014, 5:15 PM EST
Lakers star: ‘If the opportunity came up, then that’s the time to have that discussion’
Dec 19, 2014, 4:29 PM EST
Black-and-white version of Toronto’s new logo looks similar to Brooklyn’s
Dec 19, 2014, 3:44 PM EST
President wants to see more athletes take political stands
Dec 19, 2014, 2:56 PM EST
This gives the Rockets a little more depth on the wing with Harden and Ariza.
Dec 19, 2014, 2:15 PM EST
Thunder star sprained ankle against Warriors
Dec 19, 2014, 1:40 PM EST
Miller starting against Nets in first game back from concussion
Dec 19, 2014, 1:04 PM EST
Sending Wright to the Celtics leaves major hole at backup center
Dec 19, 2014, 12:28 PM EST
Mark Cuban is too smart to pull the trigger on this kind of deal unless he has word he can keep his man.
Dec 19, 2014, 11:51 AM EST
Heat and Nets among teams that showed interest
Dec 19, 2014, 11:15 AM EST
Mavericks owner, one of many celebrities singing off Stephen Colbert, had his priorities in line
Dec 19, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
The Bulls are better off with their depth and flexibility.
Dec 19, 2014, 9:44 AM EST
Greek Freak makes diving steal again Kings
Dec 19, 2014, 9:08 AM EST
Warriors forward blows dunk, does everything else right in win over Thunder
Dec 19, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
Chris Kringle channels his inner-Allen Iverson
Dec 19, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
He will get another shot at being a head coach in the NBA. He deserves it.
Dec 19, 2014, 1:01 AM EST
Rondo moves the Mavs into contender status in the West. Problem is that is a crowded field.
Dec 19, 2014, 12:46 AM EST
The team officially described the sprain as “mild.”
Dec 19, 2014, 12:02 AM EST
Makes the haul even less impressive for Boston.
Dec 18, 2014, 11:00 PM EST
Phil responds to an article ripping the Knicks for making the deal.
- Kendrick Perkins: Rajon Rondo wanted out of Boston 0
- Report: Minnesota agrees to trade Corey Brewer to Houston 2
- Dallas moves into title contender status with addition of Rajon Rondo 41
- Kevin Durant turns ankle, leaves game not to return; X-rays negative. 4
- Report: Celtics ‘pretty pleased’ with return they got in trade for Rajon Rondo 31
- PBT Extra: Jabari Parker’s injury, what does it mean for Bucks, Rookie of Year race? 4
- Reports: Celtics agree to trade Rajon Rondo to Dallas Mavericks 39
- Andrew Bogut undergoes PRP therapy on knee, out indefinitely 9