The Boston Celtics will continue their quest to secure the No. 1 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs when they kick off a six-game road trip with a matchup against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.
The trip also will take Boston to Houston, Minnesota, Portland, Utah and Sacramento.
“The road trip doesn’t matter,” Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re playing at home or on the road. We have to play the games, we have to have the habits, we have to execute. What I care about is the carryover and the awareness to the execution, how we manage the game and what that looks like when we do it well, and what it looks like when we don’t do it well.
“I think the situation that we’re in right now, we can’t really control what seed we get from the standpoint of we can’t get to the No. 1 seed by things that are out of our control. I think it’s more about the same habits that were (there) at the beginning of the year. We gotta focus on what we do well and then can we do it for long stretches at a time.”
Atlanta is coming off back-to-back wins over the Washington Wizards. Trae Young was 11 of 14 from the field, scored 28 points and had 10 assists in Wednesday’s 122-120 victory. He scored 28 points and had nine assists in Friday night’s 114-107 triumph.
De’Andre Hunter added 18 points and seven rebounds for Atlanta, which received eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds from center Clint Capela.
“We’ve been emphasizing communication on the defensive end,” Atlanta coach Quin Snyder said following Friday’s win. “Obviously down the stretch there were some moments that we’ll learn to execute better. To be honest, I just want to keep getting better and tonight I thought our defense was better and guys have been working on that.”
The Hawks made 15 of their 31 3-point attempts in Friday’s win.
Saturday’s game will be the second of three regular-season meetings between Boston and Atlanta. Despite missing guards Marcus Smart (ankle) and Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring), the Celtics received 22 points from Jaylen Brown and beat the Hawks 126-121 in Atlanta on Nov. 16. Young led all scorers with 27 points, but he shot 10 of 23 from the field and missed five of his seven 3-point attempts.
Boston, which got 11 rebounds from Al Horford, made 21 3-pointers in the victory. The teams will also meet April 9, the final day of the regular season.
Payton Pritchard did not play in Boston’s 115-93 victory over Portland on Wednesday because of a foot injury. Mazzulla said Pritchard may be out for an extended period. Mazzulla also said center Robert Williams (hamstring) could return during the trip.
–Field Level Media