Paul Abell/US Presswire
Jeff Teague drives on Avery Bradley last season in Atlanta.The Boston Celtics (20-22, 7-13 away) visit the Atlanta Hawks (24-18, 14-7 home) on Friday night at Philips Arena (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
TOUGH TURNAROUND: In the midst of a season-worst five-game losing streak, the Celtics don't get any favors from the schedule-makers with a quick turnaround in Atlanta. Coming off an 8 p.m. start for a national TV game against the Knicks, Boston took a midnight flight to Atlanta and will tip off less than 24 hours after their last game. Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers: "[Friday's game is] going to be hard; I knew that when I saw the schedule. You know how I feel about what we’re about to do, no reason to get on the soapbox, because it’s not going to change."
BACK-TO-BACKS IN FOCUS: The Celtics wrap up their 11th back-to-back of the season on Friday night. Defying the pattern of recent seasons (and logic for a team with an older core), Boston has actually been better on the second night of back-to-backs this year (barely). The Celtics are 4-7 on Night 1 and 5-5 on Night 2. Boston is a mere 3-5 on the road of second nights of back-to-backs this season, but did win the most recent one -- in Atlanta, no less -- on Jan. 5.
SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: Even though Josh Smith and Jeff Teague have struggled offensively, the Hawks still rank 12th in the league with 0.926 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. The loss of bench scorer Lou Williams hurts Atlanta -- he'll miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL (right knee) -- but Kyle Korver remains one of the Hawks' most efficient scorers thanks to his 3-point shooting. Defensively, the Hawks rank ninth in the league, allowing 0.906 points per play. They are still susceptible to spot-up shooting (17th overall), but are strong against the pick-and-roll (even with Teague's individual numbers an eyesore). Horford and Smith are a solid frontline along with Zaza Pachulia. It's worth noting that Horford and Pachulia are game-time decisions.
REPAIRING THE OFFENSE: With the Celtics' defense back at familiar levels of intensity, can the C's get their offense back on track now? As Kevin Garnett lamented after Thursday's loss: "I think, as of late, we're just not hitting our shots, and shots that we're usually taking, shots we're comfortable with, are not going in -- they're not falling for us. But it's like one thing after another. We were having problems with our defense, kind of fixed that a little bit and really got that under control a little bit. Now it's the offense. We've got to find a way to get some easy buckets. But we've just got to keep going at this thing. It's not time to panic. Definitely don't point fingers around here. We're a working group and we're going to continue to be."