Blakely's Celtics-Hawks Game 3 preview


Blakely's Celtics-Hawks Game 3 preview

BOSTON The scouting report on Ryan Hollins is that he's a 7-footer who doesn't rebound the ball particularly well, doesn't score much and yet he continues to find his way on to an NBA roster. For those wondering what his value is, look no further than Boston's Game 2 win at Atlanta. Although Hollins only had X points and X rebounds in X minutes, there were few players off the Celtics bench who made as big an impact as the sixth-year veteran.

"He's going to help them win a game in the playoffs. You'll see," an NBA official whose team used to employ Hollins, told CSNNE.comprior to the postseason. "He's a high-energy guy, can run the floor well, kind of agitator."

Hollins did all the above in the win over the Hawks.

But what stood out about his play, was how he was able to hold his own during defensive switches.

"That's why I have a job," quipped Hollins

Rivers acknowledged that Hollins' play was a key to the Celtics' evening up their series with the Hawks at one game apiece.

"Ryan came in and his energy that saved us," Rivers said. "You look at minutes, and I thought Ryan Hollins' minutes really was the turning point in the game."

Since joining the Celtics, Hollins has been gradually figuring out what his role will be and how he can help the Celtics be successful.

His opportunity to play in Game 2 was in part because Greg Stiemsma, who is still dealing with an assortment of foot-related injuries, was struggling and Kevin Garnett needed someone to come into the game to give him a rest.

Ryan Hollins, meet opportunity.

"You just have to always be ready around here," Hollins "That's what Doc and all the players keep preaching; just stay ready and when you're time comes, make the most of it. That's what I tried to do in Atlanta; that's what I try to do whenever I get an opportunity to play."

Having players like Hollins ready to play will be among the many factors that will determine the outcome in tonight's pivotal Game 3 matchup. Here are some other keys to tonight's game, one in which history says should result in a Celtics win. Dating back to 1960, Boston is 22-2 at home against the Hawks in the playoffs.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR All eyes will be on Rajon Rondo, with many wondering how he will handle himself after being suspended in Game 2. This will be the fourth time Rondo has returned after missing time, whether it was injury-related or because of a suspension. In those three previous games, Rondo has returned to the floor doing essentially what he does most of the time - pass the ball. In those three games, he's averaging 11 assists which is just 0.7 assists fewer than his NBA-leading 11.7 assists per game average this season. "I'm a pass-first point guard," Rondo said. "It's not like I try to go out there and dominate the ball as far as shots. I try to keep my teammates happy, and get a win."

MATCHUP TO WATCHPaul Pierce vs. Joe Johnson: Pierce is coming off a monster 36-point, 14-rebound night in Game 2, the kind of performance that few expect the Captain to replicate. Of greater concern for Boston has to be the 44 minutes Pierce played, and whether a couple days off will be enough rest for him to bounce back and pick up where he left off. As for Johnson, look for him to be more assertive offensively regardless of whether Josh Smith (left knee) plays. A six-time all-star, Johnson has averaged 16.5 points and five assists in the first two games, while shooting just 31.3 percent from the field and 17.6 percent on 3s.

PLAYER TO WATCHJeff Teague has really emerged as a postseason terror for opponents. After two games, Teague has established himself as the best guard on the floor. His quickness off the dribble seems to have caught the Celtics off-guard in the first two games. However, the Celtics - Avery Bradley mainly - have figured out how to limit him down the stretch in both games. Figuring out how to keep Teague under control at the start of games, would go far in Boston pulling out a Game 3 win.

STAT TO TRACKBench play is always important, especially in this series. The Hawks won Game 1 in part because they outscored the Celtics' second unit, 17-2. In Boston's Game 2 win, the C's second unit had 14 points which equalled the output of the Hawks' reserves. Being able to hold their own offensively with Atlanta's backups will again be key in tonight's Game 3 matchup.