Celtics, Hawks face depth test on quick turnaround
Stamina and player availability will play a large role on Wednesday when the Boston Celtics visit the Atlanta Hawks.
Not only will both teams be playing the second half of a back-to-back set, but they both played on the road on Tuesday night. Boston will be competing in its third road game in four days, having lost the first two.
The Hawks were without starting guard Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) on Tuesday, and John Collins exited, too. The forward took a blow to the head and didn't play in the second half with the team awaiting a concussion evaluation.
The Celtics may be without Kemba Walker, who played 33 minutes on Tuesday and scored 21 points. He is likely to be withheld in order to manage the load on his left knee.
Both teams took tough losses on Tuesday.
Boston lost 110-107 to the Dallas Mavericks when Luka Doncic hit a long 3-pointer with one-tenth of a second left. The Celtics had erased a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter and led with 37.6 seconds remaining. However, a pair of 3-pointers by Doncic offset a basket by Jaylen Brown, and the Mavs won.
It was the second straight bitter loss for the Celtics, who blew a 24-point lead on Sunday and fell to the New Orleans Pelicans in overtime. Boston has dropped three of its past four.
"That's another heartbreaking loss, but that feels a little bit different than it did on Sunday," Boston coach Brad Stevens said postgame Tuesday. "We're not as good defensively as we have been in the last few years. I think we've improved in that area, but I still don't think we're where you want to be if you want to be good."
Atlanta lost 112-111 at Cleveland on Tuesday, a result that ended the Cavaliers' 10-game losing streak. The Hawks led by as many as seven points midway in the fourth quarter but could not put the game away. Cleveland won it on a slam dunk by Lamar Stevens with 4.1 seconds remaining.
The Hawks had used their final timeout to challenge a call earlier, and they were unable to get off a final shot.
"We just need to find a way to make that one last play," said Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce, who was back on the bench after missing the previous three games due to the birth of a child and COVID-19 protocols. "We'll try to find it (Wednesday) night."
Hawks guard Trae Young, who is tied for ninth in the league in scoring (27 points per game) and is third in assists (9.6 per game), was not selected for the NBA All-Star Game that will be held in Atlanta. Young feigned indifference when asked about the perceived snub and said, "I've been an All-Star. For me it's all about how can I improve and help my team. "
Pierce said, "He's had an All-Star season. More than anything, the way other teams play him is a sign of respect."
The Hawks and Celtics played a two-game series in Boston last week. Atlanta won the first game 122-114, but Boston took the rematch 121-109 when Walker returned to action after taking the previous game off for load management and scored 28 points. The Celtics have won five straight games in Atlanta.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 24, 2021