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Hawks Look to Rebound Versus Celtics

Battle for the Eastern Conference 8th Spot

By Vershawne Pennyamon | 4/9/2014, 4:24 p.m.

ATLANTA - With a disappointing loss last night to the Detroit Pistons, the Atlanta Hawks (34-43) are now 1.5 games ahead of the New York Knicks (33-45).

Tonight they will host the struggling Boston Celtics (23-54) squad that is looking to play late-season spoiler.

Both teams are looking to bounce back after heartbreaking losses to Detroit. Hawks have five games remaining, and if they want to maintain the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, they need to gain their momentum back as soon as possible.

The Hawks have lost four of the last five meetings against the Celtics, who are on an eight-game losing streak with their most recent loss coming against the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics also hold a 12-game road-losing streak.

The key matchups in this game will be the guard play of the Hawks’ Jeff Teague versus Celtics’ Rajon Rondo, Hawks’ Millsap versus Celtics’ Sullinger, and the X-factor matchup of Hawks’ Kyle Korver versus Celtics’ Jerryd Bayless.

Jeff Teague is a solid point with a nice arsenal, as he is able to get to the rim at will. But at times, he seems very hesitant. Using his strength, he will have an effective game driving the lane on the weaker Rajon Rondo.

Being one of the craftiest and skillfully pure point guards we have in this league, Rondo shines as a great playmaker with excellent vision, because he always looking for the open man.

However, having surgery in the offseason has effected his explosiveness, which can hurt him in production area of points. Rondo’s game I.Q. will get him these points even if his body doesn’t allow him to do so.

Teague should play off the Celtics' point-man a little, and his Hawks' teammates should be ready to prevent Rondo from passing. This point-battle should be a fun matchup to watch.

After allowing the Pistons to grab 53 rebounds last night, the Hawks will look to bounce back on the boards, starting with the double-double machine Paul Millsap.

He held his own last game, and should have another tough task versus the Celtics' rising postman Jared Sullinger on the boards. Millsap’s athleticism will be key in the matchup versus Sullinger. Millsap's handle and range can cause Sullinger to come out of the post, playing right into his hands.

Hard work in the post got the big men of Detroit in foul trouble early and this can be key versus the Celtics, being they don’t have a lot of big men to spare.

Millsap will continue to start off hot and allow the Hawks to have a first quarter lead. But this game of basketball is divided into four parts, so a quarter of work is not enough.

Sullinger has been a solid prospect out of Ohio State University, since his arrival in the NBA. He lacks the look of a physical specimen but he gets hustle buckets and rebounds. He also has a tendency to float out toward the 3-point line, which is why he is shooting under 30 percent. And this is not helping the Celtics. Sullinger should see more touches with Kris Humphries out, and will be the key guy for a lane-penetrating Rondo.