Boston Celtics: 2012Round1
During four games against Atlanta, the C’s have averaged just 12.5 turnovers per contest [compared to 14.8 per game during the regular season]. Now, that number can be somewhat misleading given the slower pace teams play at in the postseason, but here’s a number which is not. Boston has turned the ball over on just 12.7 percent of its postseason possessions, a substantial drop from its regular season mark of 14.7 percent. That 12.7 number would have placed them among the league’s elite (second place) over a full 66-game season in protecting the ball.
It is a small sample size, but for a team that has languished in the basement of the league in turnover percentage for nearly five years now, that’s nothing to sneeze at, especially in the postseason against a team in Atlanta with a good track record of forcing the issue defensively. So why have the Celtics’ fared so well in this department? Well, it starts with one guy generally, the point guard.
“It starts with me," said Rondo. "I have the ball in my hands a lot and Paul [Pierce] and I communicate a lot throughout the game saying that we need to take care of the ball. So that’s what we have been focused on in this playoff series, taking care of the ball and all five guys crashing the glass."
Hop HERE to read more on CelticsHub.
Do the Hawks have a surprise x-factor on their roster?
* Brian Robb: Willie Green. Any time you have a guy coming off the bench that is shooting 44 percent, you have to at least take some notice. even if it’s Willie Green. The shooting guard won’t play much defense, but has been a sparkplug for Altanta, serving as a very poor man’s Jamal Crawford for this year’s squad. If he gets going on the offensive end, he could make life tough for Boston’s D.
* Ryan DeGama: It might actually be Joe Johnson, who has the potential to be the best offensive player in this series, particularly if he starts at the SG spot. Johnson’s been hot since the all-star break (48FG%, 44% from the arc) and neither Avery Bradley (small) nor Ray Allen (old, injured) matches up well against him. That means Boston will rely on Mickael Pietrus, whose health remains an ongoing concern. I don’t like Paul Pierce as a primary Johnson defender because he needs to conserve energy for the second and third rounds where Luol Deng and LeBron James will be waiting.
* Hayes Davenport: Jeff Teague. He’s maybe the only player on this team who can both shoot threes and consistently get to the rim, and as Boston focuses its energies on forcing Johnson and Smith to take difficult shots, Boston guards will probably be helping off Teague much of the time. If they do, he’ll be free to receive a kickout and either take an open three or cut to the basket, bailing out the blown Hawks possessions that are essential for Boston to pile up.
* Michael Pina: The Hawks are the Hawks are the Hawks—a talented group that unfortunately hit their ceiling three years ago. But the one player I’d say has the slightest sliver of a chance at becoming Atlanta’s x-factor is their newest member, Jeff Teague. Filling in for an injured Kirk Hinrich in last year’s second round series against the Bulls, Teague was a major reason why the Hawks pushed one of the league’s best teams to six games. He’s very quick, but has a tendency to poke an opposing team’s proverbial Hornet’s nest which usually gets both him and his team in deep trouble. He’s the closest thing Atlanta has to an x-factor, but against Boston he should be well contained by one of the league’s best defensive back courts.
* Brendan Jackson: Zaza Pachulia. The Hawks’ big man is a complete nuisance. Just the type of player the Celtics hate to play against but would love to have off their bench. Luckily for the C’s, Pachulia is hampered by a foot injury. If he is healthy for any part of this series, his activity level on the glass and in the paint could swing the momentum in the Hawks favor.
Hop HERE to read the full 5-on-5 on CelticsHub.
Boston vs. Atlanta
Game 1: Sunday, April 29, Boston at Atlanta, 7 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2: Tuesday, May 1, Boston at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
Game 3: Friday, May 4, Atlanta at Boston, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 4: Sunday, May 6, Atlanta at Boston, 7 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5*: Tuesday, May 8, Boston at Atlanta, TBD (TBD)
Game 6*: Thursday, May 10, Atlanta at Boston, TBD (TBD)
Game 7*: Saturday, May 12, Boston at Atlanta, TBD (TBD)
* if necessary
The two teams are still vying for home-court advantage (the Celtics need a win over the Bucks and the Hawks to fall to the visiting Mavericks). The full first-round schedule will come out after all of Thursday's action has been completed.
What remains to be decided is where the series will open. As Atlantic Division champions, the Celtics will be the No. 4 seed, but home-court advantage is determined by overall record, meaning the No. 5 Hawks can still host the series. In fact, Atlanta (38-26) owns a 1-game advantage over Boston (37-27) with two games to go. The Celtics are aided slightly by owning the tie-breaker in the event the two teams finish the season with matching records.
The remaining schedules:
Boston: Heat (4/24), Bucks (4/26)
Atlanta: Clippers (4/24), Mavericks (4/26)
By sending out a junior varsity lineup on Friday night in a head-to-head matchup with Atlanta, the Celtics have essentially stated they don't care who lands home-court advantage, preferring to err on the side or rest and health over opening the series in Boston. That said, it will be interesting to see how hard both sides push over the last two games with a chance to aid their cause both at the start of the series and in a potential Game 7.
Your turn: How do you feel about playing the Hawks? Do you think the Celtics should push hard for home-court advantage over the final two games? Sound off in the comments.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter weighs in on the Panthers' WR situation, Julian Edelman's future with the Patriots, Vince Wilfork's decision to ask for his release and more.
Play Podcast "Spanning the Globe" features ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss, Yahoo! Sports' Eric Edholm and ESPN LA 710's Mark Willard.
Play Podcast Red Sox manager John Farrell talks about whether he expected his team to make such a turnaround in one season, his relationship with his players, fans' expectations for the squad and more.