News game in that the Celtics would sit Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett (the Big 4) against their marquee matchup tonight against likely playoff opponent the Atlanta Hawks. The Celtics will instead go with a starting 5 of Kenyon Dooling, Avery Bradley, Sacha Pavolic, Brandon Bass (the lone regular starter), and Greg Stiemsma. The Celtics will also be without 6th man Mikael Pietrus, their defensive stopper and primary back up to Paul Pierce, as he is resting his knee. Allen has missed several games over the last few weeks with a sore ankle, while Rondo battles a bad back. Garnett & Pierce are healthy scratches as the team prepares for the playoffs by giving rest to their starters.
Meanwhile the Hawks will be without centers Erick Dampier and Zaza Pachulia, who are respectively out with calf and foot injuries. Look for
back up bigs Jason Collins and Ivan Johnson to get plenty of run tonight. The Hawks are expected to roll out the rest of their starting lineup with Jeff Teague at the point, Kirk Hinrich at SG, Josh Smith at PF with either Johnson or Collins starting. The Hawks surprisingly have a deep bench with guys like Tracy McGrady and Marvin Williams as their subs.
For the actual game, this seams to be somewhat of what football fans know as a “Toilet Bowl.” The strategy by Doc Rivers to sit the rest of the starters will ultimately pay off in the long run as he knows that his regular season game against the Hawks is not as important as their looming matchup in early May. With this game being played in Atlanta, I expect the Hawks to run away with it despite missing their big men. I believe this game will be decided from early on as the Hawks appear to have an advantage at every starting position as well as having a stacked bench (the celtic’s bench will get plenty of minutes tonight…. starters minutes). Am I tuning in? Probably not, but if I were I would be excited to see an extended look at Greg Stiemsma, who former Celtics great and current broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn once compared to Bill Russell. Bill Simmons even went as far as saying he could be looked at for Team USA this summer now that Dwight Howard is out. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays 40 minutes and comes close to a triple double with blocks (he’s currently 2nd in the league). I don’t really expect this game to be close, but you should tune in.