Celtics - Hawks preview: Stevens a fan of Teague

Celtics - Hawks preview: Stevens a fan of Teague
December 31, 2013, 9:00 am
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BOSTON — Atlanta's Jeff Teague has been one of the best point guards in the Eastern Conference.

That doesn't come as a surprise to Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Stevens, who spent six seasons as Butler's head coach prior to coming to Boston, tried to recruit Teague to Butler.

Teague was a standout at Indianapolis' Pike High School, the alma mater of Celtics guard/forward Courtney Lee and just a few miles away from Butler's campus.

"I've always been a Teague fan," Stevens said. "Watched him play since he was a kid, recruited him unsuccessfully. He's always been an elite athlete with his ability to change speeds."

And in a sense, change the perception that some might have of the Hawks all of a sudden becoming a bad team with the loss of Horford.

Teague is averaging 17 points and 8.3 assists per game, both career highs. In fact, Teague's scoring average has increased each of his NBA seasons.

But he's just part of a potent Atlanta offense which ranks ninth in the league in points scored (103.6) per game this season.

"They have multiple, elite scoring guards," Stevens said.

Lou Williams has bounced back from a torn ACL injury to average 11.2 points per game. He has been even better of late with a 17.4 points per game average in his last five games.

And then there's Kyle Korver who has made at least one 3-pointer in 100 consecutive games. The previous record was 89 set by former Celtic Dana Barros.

"They're all making shots," Stevens said. "They're all shooting well and they're playing well."

And the trigger man to the Hawks' shooting is Teague.

"He's playing like an All-Star guard right now," said Boston's Avery Bradley who will be one of the multiple defenders assigned to trying to limit Teague. "I always respected his game. He always continues to get better. He's just a great guard."

Here are more keys to today's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  The Hawks will surely be looking to exact some revenge on the Celtics who rallied to knock off Atlanta 94-87 after trailing by double digits going into the fourth quarter. With Al Horford (pectoral) expected to be out for the season, the Hawks have little choice but to be more of a perimeter-oriented squad.

This season, the Hawks are averaging 24.8 3-pointers per game. In the two games since Horford's injury, Atlanta has taken an average of 39 3s taken.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs. Jeff Teague: Bradley has hit for double figures scoring in 10 of Boston's 11 games this month, averaging 16.1 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 57.1 percent on 3s. Teague has been one of the breakout players in the East this season, averaging 16.8 points and 8.2 assists which ranks fourth in the NBA.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Often the clearest indicator of how the Celtics are doing can be found in the play of Jordan Crawford. He had 12 points and 10 assists in Boston's win over Atlanta last month, and has averaged 15.9 points and 5.9 assists this month.

STAT TO TRACK: Without Horford, the Hawks are more susceptible to giving up points in the paint. That has certainly been the case in the month of December with Atlanta opponents are averaging 46.7 points per game in the paint which is the sixth-highest average in the NBA this month. The Celtics are due for a big scoring game in the paint as they currently average 36.2 points this month which is the fourth-lowest average in the NBA in December.