Boston–Jamal is out with a sore back. J.J. is back in Atlanta.
Is there any chance the Hawks can go back home with a W?
Under the best circumstances, it would be difficult for the Hawks to do it; it will be dang tough while missing an All-Star and Sixth Man Award winner. Then again, somehow win this one and it really would mean redemption for that Nov. 22 surrender at Philips.
On Boston’s side, Rondo says he’s in despite a balky ankle. (Update: Celtics GM Danny Ainge says Rondo to miss “weeks” with injury.) Shaq says he’s out. Even if Shaq plays, L.D. said plans to send out the big lineup with Twin at center.
“I want to play Al at the four,” Drew said. “The rookie [Semih Erden] is real long. I like the matchup better moving Smoove to three and Marvin to two; it gives us an advantage on the offensive end. We will match up Smoove on Pierce [to] put a little length on him to see if that bothers him. We will try to do some thing offensively with Allen having to defend Marvin. See if we can create an advantage size-wise with that.”
Maybe the Celtics will be sapped after that hard-fought W at Madison Square Garden last night. Perhaps the Hawks will chapped by that ugly L at Detroit and motivated to save face against the C’s. Of course Boston beat down the Hawks on a back-to-back last time with energy ball Nate Robinson doing the damage early.
The Celtics did show some vulnerability last night. It was shocking to see the Knicks working the pick-and-roll so easily. Doc noted he couldn’t put KG or Big Baby on Amar’e too often because the power rotation is thin without Shaq, J. O’Neal and Perkins. Can the Hawks take advantage, too? Note that the Knicks only have two Ls since Nov. 16, to the Celtics and Hawks.
Granted, the Hawks don’t have Amar’e pogo sticking as their roll man but Al is deadly on the pick-and-pop and Smoove is a load when he gets the ball going to the rim. Together, they are like a composite Amar’e. Gallinari was a weapon for the Knicks–ESPN talker Jeff Van Gundy noted that the C’s couldn’t “short close” on him at the 3-point line because he’s so big he can shoot over them, and once they closed hard Gallinari went by them to the hole. Dare I say Smoove should try to do the same if he makes the first couple (inevitable) 3-pointers he launches?
The Knicks did enough to get some respect from the Celtics, who aren’t the types to give it easily:
“They test our defense,” Pierce said. “There are few teams in the NBA that test our defense. That’s one of them because they go small ball and they put four shooters on the court. Then when you got a big man who’s an elite scorer in this league, who can shoot from everywhere, they’re a tough guard.”
“I’ll say one thing about the Knicks, they’re confidence is obviously through the roof,” Garnett said. “Definitely a team to reckon with.”
Obviously L.D. watched Knicks-Celtics, too, and he noticed some things. He said the Hawks would run a lot of pick-and-rolls and also try to run with Teague and JC2 getting some burn looking to do both.
“They struggled with [the pick-and-roll],” L.D. said. “New York, they picked up the pace, too. In that fourth quarter a few times Boston scored and New York got the ball out, came right back down and scored. It’s that type of tempo we have had success [with] in the past playing at that pace. At the same time, you have got to be smart coming down and not jacking up that ill-advised shots, especially on the road.”