BOSTON – You hear players talk all the time about being able to win on the road. But protecting home court is arguably even more important, particularly when you’re the Celtics, who are on pace to have home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference postseason.
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Boston (37-15) has the best record in the Eastern Conference. But when it comes to winning at home, there are eight teams (two in the East, six in the West) that do it better than the Celtics.
That’s why this current three-game homestand is important. The last time Boston played consecutive games at home, they lost to New Orleans and Orlando.
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Boston got the homestand off on the right foot with a dominant 103-73 win over New York on Wednesday.
“We want to win all the games,” Boston’s Daniel Theis told NBC Sports Boston. “But we really need to win at home, for these fans. They deserve it.”
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Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between the Celtics and Atlanta Hawks.
Jayson Tatum is on the short list of top rookies, but the Atlanta Hawks have a pretty good one in John Collins.
Drafted by Atlanta with the 19th overall pick last June out of Wake Forest, Collins is averaging 10.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting 59.6 percent from the field.
Like Tatum, Collins was also selected to the U.S. team for the Rising Stars Challenge later this month in Los Angeles during All-Star weekend.
INJURIES PILING UP
You have to give Terry Rozier major props for the way he stepped up in the Celtics’ blowout win against New York, tallying a triple-double of 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in his first NBA start. His opportunity came about due to the rash of injuries the Celtics are now dealing with. It’s unclear if Kyrie Irving’s right quadriceps injury, which kept him out vs. the Knicks, has healed enough to where he’ll be in the lineup tonight. Boston’s also without Marcus Smart for at least another week after he punched a picture frame that required stitches. Also, Shane Larkin has been dealing with some knee soreness that has made him a game-time decision the past few games.
We know the Celtics well enough to anticipate they will be jacking their share of long-range shots tonight. And in the Hawks, Boston faces a team that has also made the 3-point shot an integral part of what they look to do on a nightly basis.
Boston ranks fourth in the NBA with 11.7 made three-pointers per game. The Hawks aren’t too far behind, ranking 10th in the league with 10.9 made 3’s per game.
HAWKS DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES
The Celtics offense has a tendency to get bogged down most nights.
Tonight should not be one of them.
They face an Atlanta Hawks team that has the worst record in the NBA (15-36), and a big part of their problem is their poor defense.
Atlanta’s defense allows 108.3 points per game, which ranks 23rd in the NBA. The ball movement of opponents has really been a killer for the Hawks, evident by them allowing a league-high 25.9 assists per game.
ON A ROLL
Marcus Morris suffered a left hip injury late in the third quarter of the win against New York on Wednesday. That’s about the only thing that has slowed him down lately, with Morris reaching double figures in each of his past nine games. And if he plays tonight, you can expect he’ll have one of his better games. Of the teams that Morris has played at least 10 times against in his career, his scoring average of 14.0 points against the Hawks is his second-highest scoring average against any team. Tops on that list? Philly of course. Morris, a Philadelphia native, has averaged 15.1 points against the 76ers in his career.