In a battle between Eastern Conference foes, the Atlanta Hawks will travel to play the Boston Celtics. This game will go a long way towards shaping the postseason standings, as Boston trails Atlanta by just 2.5 games.
The question is, can the C's close the gap?
Atlanta enters this game with a record of at 40-32 overall and 18-19 on the road. The Hawks have gone 7-9 during their past 16 games.
As for Boston, it's 37-34 overall and 24-11 at home. The Celtics have lost seven of their past 10 and are desperate for a victory.
So whose will is stronger?
Time: Friday, Mar. 29 at 7:30 p.m. EDT
TV: TSOH & CSNN
Records: Atlanta Hawks (40-32, 18-19 road) at Boston Celtics (37-34, 24-11 home)
Betting Line: N/A
Atlanta Hawks Injury Report
Devin Harris, Sore Left Foot, Questionable
Zaza Pachulia, Sore Right Achilles, Out
Lou Williams, Torn Right ACL, Out
Boston Celtics Injury Report
Courtney Lee, Sprained Left Ankle, Questionable
Rajon Rondo, Torn Right ACL, Out
Jared Sullinger, Back Surgery, Out
Key Storyline: Fighting for the Same Spot
When the Boston Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks, both teams will have their eyes on the same prize. Both teams are within striking distance of finishing with the fifth seed and each could fall back as far as seventh.
They're only separated by 2.5 games.
The winner of this game will be in prime position to move up the standings. This may not play much of a difference in terms of home-court advantage, but both squads are looking for the best possible seeding.
Winning this game will go a long way towards doing that.
Key Matchup: Avery Bradley vs. Jeff Teague
One of the most improved players in the NBA is Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague. Not only has he improved as a shooter, but Teague has become a borderline elite facilitator.
Teague is playing the same amount of minutes in 2012-13 as he did in 2011-12—even still, he's averaging 2.1 assists more per game.
In order to achieve that measure of success against the Boston Celtics, Teague will need to overcome defensive specialist Avery Bradley. Seeing as the Hawks thrive off ball movement—24.6 team assists per game—it's on Teague to step up.
Bradley is the perfect candidate to take Teague out of his comfort zone.
Bradley is not necessarily a ball hawk, but he's superb at defending the pick-and-roll. The former Texas Longhorn is also a master at defending against driving opponents.
If Bradley performs as expected, he could neutralize Atlanta's catalyst. That's a formula for success.
X-Factor: Jeff Green, Boston Celtics
If there has been one constant during Boston's more successful games, it's been the rise of Jeff Green. That was on full display as Green hit the game-winning buzzer-beater against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 27.
In a game against a team as explosive as the Atlanta Hawks, that's what it may come down to on March 29.
Green has been superb as of late, finding his outside shot and capitalizing on his versatility. During his past six games, Green is averaging 18.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals.
That's the type of performance that the Celtics need from Green if they're to defeat Atlanta.
The Boston Celtics are one of the most complete teams in the NBA. Even without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have a significant amount of depth at virtually every position.
Who will win?
Just don't sell the Atlanta Hawks short in that department.
Atlanta has an abundance of three-point shooters and move the ball as well as any in the league. This enables the Hawks to create open looks for snipers such as Kyle Korver and John Jenkins.
With that being said, the Hawks will be unable to counter Paul Pierce's production.
Pierce will take it to Josh Smith, working the angles to draw him into foul trouble and hit the basket. Paired with Kevin Garnett's defense on Al Horford and Avery Bradley's work against Jeff Teague, the Celtics will emerge victorious.
Jeff Green's late-game heroics make it all work for Boston.
Boston Celtics 94, Atlanta Hawks 89