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 Friday.
Event: Celtics (39-27) vs. Hawks (40-26) - NBA Playoffs 2012, First Round, Game 2.
Date/Time: Friday, May 4, 2012 - 7:30 p.m. EST
Location: TD Garden (Capacity: 18.624), Boston, MA.
Broadcast Info: Tuesday's playoff game between the Celtics and Hawks will be televised nationally on ESPN. 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 - Ray Allen (ankle); 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.
Storyline: Not what you expected, right? The Celtics, with Rondo in the lineup, lost to the Hawks. Without him, they won. Well, Rondo's back from suspension, and with the series shifting to Boston, thinks seem to be looking up for Boston. If we're so lucky, we might even see the return of Ray Allen on Friday. Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia will be out for the Hawks, and Josh Smith (left knee sprain) might be joining them. Sure, all signs point to a Celtics win at home, but don't be fooled -- this is still the playoffs, where the truly amazing happens. Teams can will themselves to win, brushing talent deficiencies aside. But if Smith is out, Atlanta is at a disadvantage, as he provided the Hawks with solid production in the first two games of the series. Boston seemingly has the advantage here.
Players To Watch: All eyes on Rajon Rondo, who is returning from his suspension. Will he have an extra bounce in his step and a sense of determination after being held out of Game 2? Will he wear a headband? All of these important questions will be answered Friday night. Of course, if Ray Allen returns, keep an eye on the three-point king -- how he looks, how many minutes he plays, etc. The same goes for Josh Smith, if he plays. But if Allen and Smith do not play, watch for Mickael Pietrus, Ivan Johnson and Marvin Williams.
Prediction: Everything points to a Celtics victory. Rondo's back, Allen possibly, too. Home court. A big win in Game 2. Why buck the trend? Final Score: Celtics 89, Hawks 78.