LIVE: Can Hawks continue to overcome odds vs. Celtics?

Any predictions what scoreboard will say at the end? List them below.

Any predictions on how this scoreboard will read at the end? List them below.

(Updated: 6:10 p.m. with Ray Allen’s status and Hawks’ lineup.)

No Al Horford. No Zaza Pachulia. No chance?

Not quite.

Maybe you wouldn’t know it by looking at some of the series predictions. On ESPN’s “expert picks,” 12 pick the Celtics and one who didn’t get the memo took the Hawks. The biggest reason is that the Hawks look like an entry in a 6-foot-and-under league (relatively speaking). Center Al Horford (pectoral) likely out for the whole series. Backup Zaza Pachulia (foot) is doubtful. (Coach Larry Drew after the morning shoot around: “He’s sitting out there with a boot on his foot, so that’s not a good sign.”)

But it’s worth noting this is not a dominant Celtics team. They grind out wins. Their average per-game point differential of plus-2.52 ranked only 11th in the league. Their best three-point shooter, Ray Allen, is out with an ankle injury tonight and is questionable for the series.

What the Celtics do have is a playoff resume. They have won nine of 12 series in the last four years, including all four in the first round. But this is a winnable series for the Hawks.

Here’s Drew when asked about the Hawks’ injuries: “I’m actually not concerned at all. We’ve played without both guys a number of games. Would we like to have them? Yes. But we’ve had some success without them. They’re a part of who we are but we’ve managed to move forward with both guys being out.”

A couple of keys:

Jeff Teague: If we assume Josh Smith and Joe Johnson are what they are in this series, Teague can be the X factor. We saw the impact when he emerged in the second round against Chicago last season, and he has been the Hawks’ most improved player this year. The fact Teague will be opposite Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo elevates his importance even more. By the way, Steve’s Hummer’s piece on Teague in today’s AJC is worth a read.

Bench: The Hawks are obviously undersized without Horford and Pachulia but what they do have is depth. The biggest keys: Ivan Johnson and Tracy McGrady. Johnson is physical, but the question is whether he can keep his emotions in check against Kevin Garnett.

McGrady has played well in the last two weeks and seems pumped for the playoffs (he’s 0-7 in playoff series, 13-25 in playoff games in his career). Michael Cunningham has a blog posted on McGrady. One of McGrady’s comments: “Physically and mentally I feel better than I have all season long. Feeling a lot more comfortable, getting consistent minutes, coach is putting the ball in my hands.”

(Update: Jason Collins will start at center for the Hawks. Drew is opting for bringing Marvin Williams, Johnson and McGrady off the bench.)

That’s it for now. I’ll be here live blogging through the game, at least until I need to start working on the game column.

What are your thoughts on this series? Do the Hawks have a chance without their bigs? The cyber floor is yours.

By Jeff Schultz

121 comments Add your comment

Patrick

April 29th, 2012
5:21 pm

Patrick

April 29th, 2012
5:24 pm

Yes, they have a shot. As long as they play team basketball and make multiple passes to create space. We can’t get locked down man to man against the Celtics, they are just to good defensively. Create space with efficent passing, movement and screens. RUN ON THOSE OLD DUDES!!

DarthVesper

April 29th, 2012
5:41 pm

JSS

April 29th, 2012
5:47 pm

Be flexible and make Rivers adjust first! Keep him trying to keep Johnson, Smith, and McGrady from dictating on the offensive end. The Celtics hate teams that force them to actively defend for extended periods. And Marvin, Joe, and Teague show up early and often, no disappearing acts!!!

reggiej

April 29th, 2012
5:52 pm

This series is ours! Go Hawks!!!

indianman

April 29th, 2012
5:54 pm

the hawks in six

ThreeDawgKnight

April 29th, 2012
5:55 pm

Put Tracy McGrady in the Post.
That oughta do it.

rob

April 29th, 2012
6:02 pm

I dont even listen to the Wilbons or Jon Barrys. Hawks can and will take this thing, they have matured each year, and this is the best team they have had. They got homecourt for a reason, think they need to take the first two

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
6:14 pm

Ray Allen is out tonight for the Celtics, according to Doc Rivers. Jason Collins starts for the Hawks at center.

tckr83

April 29th, 2012
6:16 pm

What’s your call on the series Jeff?

Steve

April 29th, 2012
6:21 pm

I wonder what the “fan” percentage will be? Maybe 50/50? My week is also ruined because I wasn’t “first.” Poor me.

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
6:47 pm

Tckr83 — Not making a call on his one.

hawks fan in ky

April 29th, 2012
6:50 pm

What channel will this game be on?

hawks fan in ky

April 29th, 2012
6:52 pm

I mean what TV Station Mr. Schultz?

tckr83

April 29th, 2012
6:53 pm

Weak man, weak!

Seriously, I don’t blame you.

JSS

April 29th, 2012
6:54 pm

TNT tonight…

K.W.

April 29th, 2012
6:58 pm

You can also watch the game on Sports South.

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:00 pm

Hawks fan in Ky — Game is on TNT and SportsSouth.

rob

April 29th, 2012
7:00 pm

I muted the commentators, Ill listen to the commentary during the game, not before, during halftime, or after. They wont mention the Hawks anyway

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:01 pm

tckr83 — Not making a prediction because I don’t know about injuries. If I thought Pachulia was playing in rest of series, I’d pick Hawks.

rob

April 29th, 2012
7:02 pm

why cant Atlanta be like OKC or any of these other cities where the whole crowd is for the home team. People love moving to Atlanta thats some bull****

Hard In The Paint Like Josh Smith

April 29th, 2012
7:03 pm

whos calling the game on tnt?

tckr83

April 29th, 2012
7:04 pm

Jeff –

Understood. What’s your prediction tonight then?

IceColdATLien

April 29th, 2012
7:08 pm

If Zaza and Ray miss equivalent amounts of time, I’d think that the Hawks would benefit in that exchange… except that we’re already missing Al. So I’m guessing it’ll come down to the strength of our bench and the corresponding ability to consistently get to 95 pts/game (a pace that the Celts without Allen cannot match).

IceColdATLien

April 29th, 2012
7:11 pm

@rob:
Hawks fans suffering from the same affliction Braves fans had during the 1st decade of the 2000’s: we got apathetic bout a team that goes to the playoffs year after year with no shot at all of winning the post-season tourney. Remember how Philips was in ‘08? It was insano-psychotic there, but 4 years later we’re bored of investing in a 2nd round and out squad.

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:12 pm

Sick move by Rondo.

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:13 pm

That’s a good sign – Hinrich hitting his first shot. Saw him out shooting extra jumpers before warmups.

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:13 pm

Hawks’ fans loud early.

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:15 pm

Hawks alive at offensive end. Celtics slow on d. 16-4.

DawgNole

April 29th, 2012
7:17 pm

We’re on fire right now. Can’t let up though.

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:17 pm

Josh standing there with ball. Fans yelling “No!” He heard them and drove.

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:17 pm

Holy smokes — 20-6. Celtics call a time. Well, didn’t expect this.

Swami

April 29th, 2012
7:17 pm

If the Hawks had a better record than the Celtics why aren’t they the 4th Seed?

DawgNole

April 29th, 2012
7:18 pm

Somebody must’ve played that espn panel’s clip for them–the one in which they didn’t even mention ATL. Just speculated on how the Celts would do from the second round on.

rob

April 29th, 2012
7:18 pm

@ ICEColdATLien

Yeah I can understand that. The only way to change that tune is for Hawks to reach ECF

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:19 pm

Hawks 8 for 11 from floor. Celtics 3 for 9.

rob

April 29th, 2012
7:19 pm

@DawgNole
I hope Larry Drew played that clip over and over. If he did, it sure helped

D-Man

April 29th, 2012
7:20 pm

@DawgNole – I hope they did, that was disgustingly disrespectful. That ESPN/Charles Fart-ley hate is unbelievable! GO HAWKS!!!

IceColdATLien

April 29th, 2012
7:21 pm

Very nice start, but the Celts will grind this out fo sho. Gotta keep the running game going before BOS can get their halfcourt D set. Nice so far.

D-Man

April 29th, 2012
7:21 pm

What happened to Zsa-Zsa???

D-Man

April 29th, 2012
7:22 pm

It’s amazing how good Rondo has gotten year after year…he is going to be a problem.

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:25 pm

That brought crowd alive — Marvin alley-oop from Joe.

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:27 pm

That’s 2 on Pierce.

IceColdATLien

April 29th, 2012
7:28 pm

D-man, if you don’t know what’s up w/Zaza (and can’t spell his name right), you lose posting privileges.

Hard In The Paint Like Josh Smith

April 29th, 2012
7:29 pm

celtics look TIRED!

IceColdATLien

April 29th, 2012
7:29 pm

Can’t ask for more than this. 27-12 is bout as good as it gets.

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:29 pm

Very simple: Hawks outplaying Celtics at both ends of the court. A lot of energy. Defensive impressive on that last Celtics possession.

Brian

April 29th, 2012
7:34 pm

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
7:34 pm

Two bad Hawks possessions, Rondo makes them pay both times.

Brian

April 29th, 2012
7:35 pm

o 27 12 still?