Remember when everybody was worried about the Boston Celtics? Do they have too many good players? How’s their chemistry going to work? Is Gordon Hayward a liability now? Those questions seem to have faded quickly, along with their doubters, as Boston has reeled off seven wins in a row- none of which have been very close. Only two of them have come by less than 10 points and none have come by less than five. This is a top 3 roster in the NBA, and they are beginning to flex their muscles on the rest of the Eastern Conference.
That Eastern Conference includes the Hawks, who come into this matchup 6-21 on the season. They aren’t exactly striking fear into anybody, especially the Celtics, but Atlanta has looked better as John Collins continues to get healthy. Collins recorded 20 points and 17 rebounds in their last game for his fifth-consecutive double-double in the Hawks 114-107 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Over those five games, Collins is averaging an astounding 23.8 points and 13.0 rebounds on 61.4% from the field.
But if the Hawks are going to somehow scrape out a win over the Celtics, he’s going to need a lot more help from the supporting cast. Atlanta is 2-12 on the road so far this season, and Boston- as expected, is a really efficient 8-3 on their home floor. It’s going to take a bit of a miracle for that to happen, but 90+ points from the starting five is a good start.
That’s how many points the Hawks’ starters were able to accumulate over the Dallas Mavericks- and it still wasn’t enough. The Hawks bench only combined for 13 points, allowing for the Mavs to pull away in the second half. Probably the three best players on the Atlanta bench (Alex Len, Jeremy Lin, and DeAndre’ Bembry) put together a measly 7 points. That has to change on Friday night because the Celtics have the best second unit in the NBA.
Boston expects Gordon Hayward to be back, who may become their sixth-man for the rest of the year depending on how the season progresses. Jaylen Brown should also return after missing their last game with an illness. Both of those guys are All-Star caliber players coming off the Boston bench. Not to mention, guys like Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart will also play an integral role in the Celtics second unit. Depth is what makes Boston special, and it looks like it could be on full display Friday night against the Hawks.
This will- somewhat surprisingly- be the first time these two teams have met up this season. That means it’s the first time Trae Young gets to go up against Kyrie Irving. After what Irving did to the Wizards in their last game, I’m not so sure this is the right time for Young to catch him. However, Young is coming off perhaps his best performance in the past month, scoring 24 points and dishing out 10 assists on the Mavs. The Hawks hope that’s a sign of things to come for their slumping rookie.