Rajon Rondo 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 Thursday evening.
Event: Celtics (39-27) vs. Hawks (40-26) - NBA Playoffs 2012, First Round, Game 6.
Date/Time: Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 8:00 p.m. EST.
Location: TD Garden (Capacity: 18,624), Boston, MA.
Broadcast Info: Thursday'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.
Celtics Vs. Hawks, Game 5: So close, and yet so far. Boston came within one point of beating Atlanta in Game 5 and moving into the next round, but Al Horford (19 points, 11 rebounds) helped will the Hawks to an 87-86 win in Atlanta. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 16 points and Rajon Rondo finished the game with 13 points and 12 assists in the loss.
Storyline: It's not a must-win game, but it kind of is. Boston needs a win, even though it won't be eliminated with a loss to Atlanta on Thursday night. The Celtics had a great opportunity to send the Hawks packing in Game 5, but a sluggish start doomed the C's and resulted in an 87-86 loss, despite numerous chances to win the game. Now, heading into Game 6, the Celtics really need to win. Like I said, they won't be out with a loss, but the series would head back to Atlanta for the decisive Game 7, and you can bet that the Hawks would be pumped up to play a clinching game in their building on the heels of two straight wins. Doc Rivers surely knows this fact, but he probably didn't have to mention it to the Big Four. They know what's at stake, and they should respond well. Keyword: should.
Players To Watch: Boston's offense starts and stops with Rajon Rondo. When he's hot, the Celtics are on. When he's not, well, they're in trouble. Rondo will have to be solid and Paul Pierce will need to shake off the knee ailment and have a semi-decent game to save Boston. Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus will also need to score while the starters are resting. Al Hoford, Josh Smith and Joe Johnson are the star trio to watch for Atlanta (duh).
Prediction: It's now or never. Boston needs to win. Final Score: Celtics 92, Hawks 86.