2-on-2: Celtics vs. Hawks (Game 5)
May, 8, 2012
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Scott Cunningham/NBAEGetty ImagesThe Celtics can end this first-round series with a win in Game 5 in Atlanta.Owning a 3-1 series advantage, the Boston Celtics will be looking to close out the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series on Tuesday night at Philips Arena (8 p.m., TNT). To preview the matchup, we play a game of 2-on-2 with colleague Greg Payne:
1. What's the biggest benefit for Boston in closing out this series early?
Payne: If the Celtics don't close out the series on Tuesday, they'll risk sparking the Hawks and losing the momentum in this series. The biggest benefit is a simple fact: The series will be over. If the C's can't get the job done, Atlanta clearly has the talent to rally in this series, and with the returns of Josh Smith and Al Horford (even if neither is at 100 percent), the Hawks are that much more bolstered in the paint. The Celtics can't afford to drag this thing out and give the Hawks any shot at further life in this series.
Forsberg: What people tend to forget is how much a grind playoff games are. Having to play an extra 48 minutes doesn't sound like much, but in this series, rarely has a game passed in which someone didn't get injured, suspended, or otherwise inconvenienced. The Celtics would love to kick back and root for Philly-Chicago to go the distance so those two squads could beat each other up before the next round begins. What's more, every extra day that this series is over is an opportunity for Boston coaches to game plan and strategize for the next round and don't undervalue that opportunity (something the staff could hardly do during the regular season given the schedule). Put another way: You'd have to really reach to find a negative with getting a series over early. As Paul Pierce noted after Game 4, you don't want to give a team any sense of confidence or the thought that it's still alive. Boston has to bury the Hawks while it has all the momentum from a dominant Game 4 effort.
2. What will you be focused on in Tuesday's Game 5?
Payne: The team's offense. Obviously Game 4 saw Boston explode out of the gates and come through with their finest offensive performance of the series. They eclipsed the 100-point barrier for the first time in the playoffs, made over half of their shots overall, connected on 42 percent of their 3-pointers, and had six players reach double-figures in points. I'm a bit worried about Boston's effectiveness on the offensive end tonight, largely because they were a fairly mediocre offensive team all season, and because very few teams are capable of putting together back-to-back games with numbers similar to what we saw on Sunday. I don't think the defense will be a problem tonight, but I am concerned about Boston's productivity on the other side of the ball.
Forsberg: The "injury report" section of the Atlanta Hawks game notes for tonight's clash lists "none to report" for Boston. Celtics coach Doc Rivers would probably get a nice chuckle out of that. Even after a day off and a fairly breezy win on Sunday, you still have to be concerned about all these lingering bumps and bruises, particularly when three key guys -- Ray Allen (ankle), Paul Pierce (knee), and Avery Bradley (shoulder) -- and a top reserve in Mickael Pietrus (hamstring) are all dinged up a bit. The Celtics need to be clicking on all cylinders early going up against a desperate team in a hostile environment. A bad first quarter caused their only loss of this series and it's important to start fast in Game 5 if they want to close this thing out.