Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics continue their pursuit of an 18th championship against the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs on Tuesday evening.
Event: Celtics (39-27) vs. Hawks (40-26) - NBA Playoffs 2012, First Round, Game 5.
Date/Time: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 8:00 p.m. EST.
Location: Philips Arena (Capacity: 18,729), Atlanta, GA.
Broadcast Info: Tuesday's game between the Celtics and Hawks will be televised on TNT and CSNNE. In addition, the game will be broadcast on the radio on WEEI 93.7 FM.
Celtics Roster 2011-2012: Ray Allen, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley, Marquis Daniels,Keyon Dooling, Kevin Garnett, Ryan Hollins, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Sasha Pavlovic, Paul Pierce, Mickael Pietrus, Rajon Rondo, Greg Stiemsma,Sean Williams. Head Coach: Doc Rivers.
Hawks Roster 2011-2012: Jason Collins, Erick Dampier, Willie Green, Kirk Hinrich, Al Horford, Ivan Johnson, Joe Johnson, Tracy McGrady, Zaza Pachulia, Jannero Pargo,Vladimir Radmanovic, Josh Smith, Jerry Stackhouse, Jeff Teague, Marvin Williams. Head Coach: Larry Drew.
Injury Report: Boston - Paul Pierce (knee), Ray Allen (ankle), Avery Bradley (shoulder); Atlanta - Josh Smith (knee), Al Horford (chest), Zaza Pachulia (foot).
Regular Season Series: Boston and Atlanta met three times in the regular season, with Boston winning twice. The Celtics won 79-76 in the season series opener before topping the Hawks 88-86 in overtime in April. Atlanta won the season series finale, 97-92.
Celtics-Hawks In 2008 Playoffs: The Celtics and Hawks last met in the postseason back in 2008, when Atlanta pushed Boston to seven games, but ultimately fell short. Boston won Games 1,2, 5 and 7 of the series and proceeded to win its first championship in 22 years.
Stats Leaders: Paul Pierce was the Celtics' leading scorer in the regular season, averaging 19.4 points. Rajon Rondo led the team, and the league, in assists with 11.7 and averaged 1.8 steals. Kevin Garnett averaged a team-leading 8.2 rebounds and Greg Stiemsma averaged a team-best 1.55 blocks. Atlanta's leading scorer this season was Joe Johnson, who averaged 18.8 points per contest. Jeff Teague led the hawks in assists (4.9 APG) and steals (1.6) while Josh Smith averaged team highs in rebounds (9.6) and blocks (1.7).
Celtics Vs. Hawks, Game 1: Atlanta capitalized on the Celtics' slow start, outscoring Boston 31-18 in the first quarter and never looking back en route to an 83-74 win at Philips Arena. Josh Smith had 22 points and 18 rebounds while Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, who was ejected in the fourth and later suspended for Game 2, each scored 20 points.
Celtics Vs. Hawks, Game 2: With two of the Big Four missing, Paul Pierce picked up the piece and composed a brilliant masterpiece, scoring 36 points while grabbing 14 rebounds to lead Boston to an 87-80 win, evening the series at 1-1. Joe Johnson had 22 points and Smith, who left in the fourth with a knee injury, had 16 points and 12 boards in the loss.
Celtics Vs. Hawks, Game 3: Rajon Rondo recorded his 20th career triple-double (17 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists), Paul Pierce scored 21, Kevin Garnett scored 20 and had 13 rebounds and Ray Allen scored 13 in his return to action as Boston edged Atlanta, 90-84 in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead. Joe Johnson scored 29 points to lead the Hawks.
Celtics Vs. Hawks, Game 4: In their most complete game of the season, Boston ripped through Atlanta in route to a 101-79 win, giving it a commanding 3-1 advantage. Paul Pierce had 24 points in 17 minutes and Rajon Rondo totaled 20 points and 16 assists. Josh Smith (15 points, 13 rebounds) and Al Horford (12 points, five rebounds) both returned for Atlanta.
Storyline: They're so close that they can almost taste the Philly cheesesteaks. After rattling off three straight wins, the Celtics are one win away from sending the Hawks home for the summer. What's encouraging is that, as the series has progressed, the Celtics have played better and better. A bland performance in Game 1 gave way to a Paul Pierce masterpiece in Game 2, a resilient effort in Game 3 and an all-around dominant outing in Game 4. Now, with Game 5 almost here, the Celtics are looking to deliver the knockout blow. Unfortunately, the same questions that have haunted them going into the first four games of the series will also do so heading into Tuesday: injuries, injuries, injuries. Boston has three players dealing with ailments -- Ray Allen (ankle), Paul Pierce (knee) and Avery Bradley (shoulder). Allen returned from his right ankle injury in Game 3 after not playing since April 10 while Bradley hurt his shoulder late in Game 3. Pierce, meanwhile, bumped his left knee against Johnson in the second quarter of Game 4 and left the game. Pierce would return in the second half, but only played three minutes. Atlanta isn't without injuries, either. Josh Smith (knee) and Al Horford (chest) both returned in Game 4, but Zaza Pachulia (foot) is still sidelined. Their statuses are still up in the air heading into Tuesday night. The outcome of the game will likely be based upon who can play, and how well they perform Tuesday.
Players To Watch: Just like the first four games, watch for all the injured guys. Keep an eye on Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley for Boston and Josh Smith, Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia for Atlanta. Any of those six can impact the game, and their absence or limited ability could be a major storyline. Rajon Rondo will likely be busy dishing out 10-plus assists and 10 or more points, Pierce (if he plays) will be doing some scoring and you can pretty much count on Joe Johnson for some scoring. Jeff Teague can cause havoc, too.
Prediction: As previously mentioned, Boston has played better and better as the series has progressed. However, the Hawks won't go down easily. Expect a good old KG-style bar fight, with the good guys winning in the end. Final Score: Celtics 89, Hawks 85.