Hawks have experience closing teams out, but not in Boston


Hawks have experience closing teams out, but not in Boston

BOSTON – Before their first-round series began with the Celtics, the Hawks had a decisive advantage when it came to experience.
The bulk of last year’s team, which finished with the best record in the East and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, was back. They’re facing a Boston team that began the season with the fifth-youngest roster in the NBA.
During Atlanta’s journey, there have been many lessons learned.
Among them?
How to close out teams on the road, something they will try to do tonight against Boston in Game 6 of their best-of-seven first round series.
“It’s fair to say anytime you’re trying to close out a team, it’s the most difficult game,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “There’s a desperation that they’ll have that you have to match. Our players have been in this situation before; hopefully find a way to get it done.”
Last season, the Hawks closed out their first- and second-round series with Game 6 wins on the road at Brooklyn and Washington.
Winning on the road takes a tremendous amount of focus and attention to detail.
That will be easier said than done, especially playing at the TD Garden, which has been a House of Horrors for Atlanta when it comes to playoff games.
Boston comes into tonight’s game having won 10 straight against the Hawks at home in the playoffs, with the last loss coming in 1988. That’s just part of a 22-2 all-time record Boston has against the Hawks at home in the playoffs which includes a perfect 9-0 mark at the TD Garden.
And in this series, there really has been a home-court advantage with each of the first five games having been won by the home team.
It’s a trend the Hawks will be focused on trying to end tonight.
But to do so won’t be easy, especially in the face of a crowd that has been tremendously important to Boston thus far in this series.
No one knows this better than Atlanta guard Dennis Schroder, who was booed every time he touched the ball in Boston’s Game 4 victory, which was also the worst game for Schroder in this series.
The booing stemmed from a Game 3 incident involving Schroder and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas that potentially could have ended with Thomas being suspended for Game 4.
Instead, league officials reviewed the incident and eventually ruled a flagrant-1 penalty against Thomas for the contact he made with Schroder’s head.
“I just try to compete and try to win games,” said Schroder who had seven points on 3-for-13 shooting in Game 4. “They have a good crowd. They help their players. It don’t matter to me. I just try to win games.”
Thomas received similar treatment from the Atlanta crowd in Game 5 and like Schroder, had a similarly horrible night (seven points, 3-for-12 shooting) offensively.
It speaks to one of the many unspoken challenges that tend to prop up the deeper you get into a playoff series that makes winning on the road even tougher.
“You just have to fight through it,” Schroder said. “It’s the playoffs.”

Gordon Hayward rips back a morning workout while repping his Butler Bulldogs

File Photo

Gordon Hayward rips back a morning workout while repping his Butler Bulldogs

There hasn't been all positive news surrounding Gordon Hayward as of late.

The Celtics have been shooting down rumors of Hayward returning this season. Recent news has detailed a minor setback in his recovery.

But it's always good to see the C's superstar up early crushing a workout in the weightroom.

We might not see him back in 2018, but his dedication during recovery is something to admire.


Celtics look to continue rolling on the road

AP Photo

Celtics look to continue rolling on the road

It seems all season we’ve talked about the Boston Celtics overcoming adversity, whether it be a bad injury to a key player or a blown assignment leading to a loss.

Nowhere is this more apparent than their play on the road this season which ranks among the best in the NBA.

The Celtics will look to continue on their road warrior-like ways tonight at New Orleans, a team that’s fighting for playoff position in the tighter-than-usual Western Conference.

In recent years, the terrain has been rough for teams from the East venturing into Western Conference territory.

For this year’s Celtics?

Not so much.

Boston comes into tonight’s game with a 17-7 record against Western Conference teams, tops among all teams in the East.

And while Boston has eight road games left this season, they are on pace to finish with one of the best road records in franchise history.

Currently 24-9 away from the TD Garden (tops in the East, third overall in the NBA), that’s a winning percentage of .727 which is the fourth-highest in franchise history.

Here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on when the Boston Celtics take on the New Orleans Pelicans tonight.


It’s a given that Al Horford will spend time defending Anthony Davis tonight. And while Davis will likely have a strong night scoring the ball, you can count on Horford making it extremely tough on him. When the two teams met on Jan. 16, Davis was 8-for-19 shooting for 16 points in 52 possessions when defended by Horford. For the game, Davis had 45 points on 16-for-34 shooting.


We’ve seen “Playoff" Rondo and “National TV" Rondo deliver some impressive performances in the past. What will we see from “Well-Rested” Rondo? The Pelicans gave the ex-Celtic the night off on Saturday as to not play him in back-to-back games. Of the two games, it made sense to sit him against the Rockets and have him ready to roll against a Boston Celtics team that will not have its full complement of players available.


Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry had some choice words about the officiating in New Orleans’ 107-101 loss to Houston on Saturday that he clearly felt cost his team a better chance at winning. The only cost in play now is how big will the check be that he’ll pay the league for his comments about the officiating. His issue was that Anthony Davis doesn’t get enough calls based on the physical abuse he takes per game. Davis ranks fourth in the NBA in free throw attempts (7.8) per game, but only had four attempts against the Rockets. It’ll be worth watching whether the Pelicans, 16th in the league in free throw attempts (21.4) per game, will get to the line significantly more or less than their season average.


One of the keys to Boston’s improved play since returning to the floor since the all-star break, has been their ability to begin games with strong play. Boston has outscored their opponent in the first quarter each of the last eight games, and 10 of 11. In addition, Boston has been ahead at the half in each of their 10 games since the all-star break, which comes on the heels of trailing at the half in the seven games prior to the break.


Jayson Tatum has been one of the most impactful rookies in the NBA this season which will likely land him a spot on the NBA’s all-rookie first or second team. One of the strengths of Tatum has been his durability, evident by him being one of just two first-year players to appear in each of his team’s games played this season. He is joined by Memphis’ Dillon Brooks.