This Friday night, the Atlanta Hawks will visit the Boston Celtics in a matchup of two potential Eastern Conference playoff teams. In a game that features star-studded frontcourts, it may actually be the guard play of each team that determines the winner.
Throughout the game, look for Jeff Teague of the Hawks or Avery Bradley of the Celtics to have an impact and perhaps determine the final outcome. There are a few reasons why.
On January 25, the last time the these two teams played each other, Celtics' superstar Rajon Rondo tore his ACL and was lost for the season. The Celtics ended up losing that game in double overtime, 123-111.
Since then, however, the Celtics have not crumbled and fallen apart without Rondo; in fact, they seem to have rallied around each other to remain playoff contenders. One reason for this has been the stellar play of point guard Avery Bradley, Rondo's replacement.
Comparing his February stats (without Rondo) to his stats in January (with Rondo), Bradley increased his points, rebounds and assists totals. Through three games in March, Bradley is averaging 14.3 PPG, 3.7 APG and 2.7 RPG, all three categories up considerably from their marks at the beginning of 2013.
Bradley has not only managed to keep the high-powered Celtics offense running smoothly without Rondo, he is also contributing in his own right. Bradley could be a big reason why the Celtics clinch a playoff spot and make a run in the playoffs. Look for him to help Boston beat the Hawks tonight at home.
On the other hand, Jeff Teague of the Hawks has been a driving force behind Atlanta's offense all season long. He is averaging 14.5 PPG, 7.1 APG and 2.3 RPG.
Teague is beginning to blossom into one of the better guards in the league. He is showing more poise at the point guard position and making his teammates better. Teague is a big reason why the Hawks are in 5th place in the Eastern Conference as of March 5.
Look for Teague to play a big role in the game Friday night against Boston. Bradley will have his work cut out for him as he will be asked to defend Teague for most of the game. The winner of that matchup may just determine the winner of the game.