Celtics vs. Hawks: How they match up


ATLANTA – While tonight’s game between Boston and Atlanta doesn’t have quite as much drama going in as the Celtics’ matchup with Cleveland last night, it is nonetheless an important game for both teams.
The Celtics are trying to secure that No. 2 seed in the East in addition to bouncing back from a 114-91 beating at the hands of the Cavs.
Meanwhile, the Hawks are trying to secure their place in the postseason in addition to working Paul Millsap back into the groove after missing eight straight games.
Tonight’s game isn’t all that different than most games this time of year and to a certain extent, in the playoffs.
It’s all about matchups.
And with that, here’s a look at tonight’s matchups in a meeting of teams that could potentially be first-round playoff opponents for the second year in a row.
Isaiah Thomas vs Dennis Schroder

Anyone who has paid any attention to either team, knows that there’s no love lost between these two. In the first meeting, Thomas thoroughly outplayed Schroder who after the game, said Thomas made disparaging comments about his family (Thomas vehemently denied he did such a thing, going so far as to call Schroder a liar). When the two teams met in the rematch, it was Schroder who got the best of Thomas in addition to the win. Both players come into tonight’s game playing good basketball. Thomas remains the top scorer in the Eastern Conference with a 29.1 points per game average. Meanwhile, Schroder has been impressive of late while averaging 23.0 points, 7.2 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals in Atlanta’s past six games.
Avery Bradley vs Tim Hardaway Jr.

In the loss to Cleveland, Bradley had four points while missing seven of his eight shots from the field. The idea that he’ll have another clunker like that seems unlikely. Look for Bradley to have a much better shooting game against the Hawks. Hardaway Jr. has had a solid season, averaging 14.2 points for the year. Now a starter, he’s averaging 17.3 points in that role so Bradley will definitely have his hands full tonight.
Jae Crowder or Jaylen Brown vs Taurean Prince

Crowder said after Wednesday’s loss to Cleveland that his left elbow was still sore but that he planned to play tonight. Considering it’s a back-to-back, no one should be surprised if the Celtics medical staff keeps him out as a precautionary measure. If he doesn’t play, Boston will likely turn to Jaylen Brown whose starting to show signs of getting out of that overall funk he was in shortly after him and Marcus Smart had words on the Celtics’ sideline a couple weeks ago. As for Prince, he’s kind of like Atlanta's version of Amir Johnson from the standpoint of being an energy player who hustles, gets an occasional basket who also plays solid defense.
Al Horford vs Ersan Ilyasova or Paul Millsap

I’m really looking forward to seeing how Horford comes out tonight, because he was really hard on himself after Wednesday’s loss. It was a game that he was outplayed by fellow All-Star Kevin Love, something that Horford should be focused on as to not let happen again tonight. Millsap returned to the Hawks lineup on Sunday, playing 26 minutes off the bench. It’s unclear if he’ll be re-inserted into the starting lineup tonight against the Celtics. That would make a lot of sense considering he’s a much better matchup for them against Horford, plus Ilyasova as a reserve can only strengthen Atlanta’s second unit.
Amir Johnson vs. Dwight Howard 

Oh boy. The way Dwight Howard has been playing lately, this is going to be a rough night for Johnson. Howard has had a double-double in 10 straight games, something no Hawk player has done in nearly 25 years (Kevin Willis, 1992). Not only is scoring and rebounding at a high rate, but he’s doing so in a ridiculously short amount of time. He has 52 double-doubles this season, and leads the NBA in double-doubles (24) while playing 30 minutes or less. Limiting his impact on the boards will be Johnson’s number one priority tonight.


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