Who will host first round between Celtics-Hawks?

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Who will host first round between Celtics-Hawks?

WALTHAM The Boston Celtics will play the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.

The only question that remains is who will be laying out the fine linen (or whatever you're supposed to do) as a gracious host when the two meet in Game 1?

Ever since the C's locked up the Atlantic Division and the No. 4 seed that came with it, they have clearly made rest a priority over home court advantage in the first round.

Meanwhile, the Hawks have made getting home court in the first round of the playoffs an absolute must-have when you consider the number of minutes their core players are logging at a time when most teams are scaling back the playing time of their main players.

Yes, the Hawks are the younger team and can certainly withstand the physical grind of playing their usual minutes going into the playoffs.

But in the postseason, mental toughness on a lot of nights trumps being able to withstand physical fatigue.

And it is that mental toughness that should have the Hawks a bit worried about the C's, regardless of whether or not they have home court advantage.

Boston won the head-to-head regular season series 2-1, with the lone loss coming just a few days ago in Atlanta.

It was a game in which Doc Rivers rested Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, a game in which Rajon Rondo (back), Ray Allen (ankle) and Mickael Pietrus (knee) were all back in Boston nursing injuries.

And the game, which should have been a Hawks blowout, came down to the final minute or two before the Hawks escaped with the victory.

"As far as I'm concerned," said Hawks coach Larry Drew, "whether Boston lost the game or not, they accomplished what they wanted -- to have his reserves come out and compete at a high level, and to take us down to the wire the way they did."

And while Atlanta may want to pretend as if the win didn't mean much or would have little impact on this series, there's no escaping the reality that the way things went down on April 20 will be at or near the forefront of the Hawks' thinking as they prepare for Game 1 of their playoff series.

"For us," said Hawks guard Joe Johnson, "It definitely sits a little uneasy. I don't feel like we brought our 'A' game, particularly given they had a few guys out."

Celtics aren't asking Al Horford to be 'anything more' than what he is

Celtics aren't asking Al Horford to be 'anything more' than what he is

WALTHAM -- From one media station to the next, Al Horford effortlessly moved about during Boston Celtics Media Day.
 
In between stations, I jokingly asked the nine-year veteran, "Been through a few of these before?"
 
"A couple," he quipped.
 
But Monday was different. And every other Monday going forward this season will be different, too, for the longtime Atlanta Hawks forward, who is now a member of the Boston Celtics after they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract this summer.
 
With that significant increase in salary comes -- from those outside the Celtics program at least -- a higher level of expectations.
 
"We’re not asking Al to be anything more than him," said coach Brad Stevens.  "He’s a good fit for how we play on offense. He’s a good fit for how we play on defense. He’s a professional. He has a routine. He works hard at his craft. He’s a guy that guys can follow by example."
 
However, Horford joins a Celtics team that -- since the rebuild began in 2013 -- has yet to win 50 games in a single season or get past the first round of the playoffs.
 
And while it will certainly be a collective team effort for Boston to achieve those goals, make no mistake about it: Horford is expected to be the man leading the way.
 
"We need to start building good habits from Day One," Horford said.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, is a big fan of Horford’s character and versatility, which has been on display throughout his career.
 
"As much as anything he’s been very consistent over his career," Ainge said. "Shooting the ball, playing multiple positions. He’s a guy that fits in with our system with big guys handling the ball a lot."
 
Horford’s new teammate echoed similar sentiments about the four-time All-Star.
 
And when you listen to his new Celtics teammates talk about him and what he’ll bring to a roster that’s loaded with returnees, there are a couple of common themes that seem to develop.
 
"He brings leadership; hard work," said Avery Bradley.
 
Bradley had a chance to spend some time around Jeff Teague, one of Horford’s former teammates in Atlanta.
 
"He just told me I’m really going to enjoy having him on this team," Bradley said. "He’s going to open the floor for everybody. He’s a great player on the offensive end, defensive end. He knows how to play the game of basketball. To have him be a part of this team, I’m just happy about it."
 
So is Amir Johnson, who will likely start with Horford in the frontcourt for Boston.
 
Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man. With the addition of Horford, Johnson won’t be relied on as heavily to be Boston’s last line of defense, which makes his life easier and, more importantly, makes the Celtics a better team defensively.
 
"[Horford] has so many skills he can contribute to the game," Johnson said. "He can run the floor, block shots, shoot the 3-ball, which is big now. He can do it all. It’ll be a big piece to carry us over the top. We just have to put it all together."