Celtics-Hawks preview: C's have eyes on standings

Celtics-Hawks preview: C's have eyes on standings
March 8, 2013, 11:15 am
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(Associated Press)

BOSTON — There have been plenty of lows for the Boston Celtics this season, but few compare to their last match-up against the Atlanta Hawks.

The C's led by as many as 27 points before squandering the lead and what had the look and feel of a sure-fire win, as the Hawks rallied for a
123-111 double-overtime win.

It was as epic a collapse as this proud Celtics franchise has been a part of, ever.

And you can bet it will be on the minds of players heading into tonight's match-up.

"You don't forget games like that," said C's guard Jason Terry. "But right now, we got bigger things on our minds than payback. We're trying to win as many games as we can, just keep building, getting stronger heading into the playoffs."

For Boston, a win would be about more than just redemption.

It would create a three-way tie for fifth in the Eastern Conference between Boston, Atlanta and Chicago, although the Bulls could move ahead or behind by a half game depending on how they fare against Utah tonight.

The implications of the win, while important, don't mean a whole lot to the Celtics players.

"Every win is huge as far as playoff positioning," Paul Pierce told CSNNE. "It's most likely determining between seventh or eighth seed, or fourth seed."

Boston's ability to play with a heightened sense of urgency will go far in their chances of handing the Hawks a fourth loss in their last five games.

Here are some other keys to tonight's game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  The Celtics have had problems all season limiting opponents scoring inside the paint. Although they have won four in a row, opponents have outscored them 190-136 during that span, or 13.5 points per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs Josh Smith: A good game for Bass would be a rough shooting/poor rebounding night for Smith. In his last five games against Boston, Smith has tallied a double-double in each, while averaging 15.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kyle Korver single-handedly brought the Hawks back with the 3-ball in Atlanta's come-from-behind, double-overtime win on January 25th. In that game, he had 27 points which included 8-for-12 shooting on 3's. He needs a pair of 3's tonight to tie Mookie Blaylock for the franchise record for made 3's (1,283).

STAT TO TRACK: Indiana had the third-best record in the month of February (9-3), and their ability to get to the free throw line had a lot to do with that. This season, the Pacers rank 12th in the league in free throw attempts per game (22.9). But in February, they led the league in free throw attempts with 27.6 per game.