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    Tuesday, November 28, 2023

    Celtics, Hawks ready to get back to work in Game 5

    The Celtics' Evan Turner reacts to scoring while Atlanta's Mike Scott prepares to inbound the ball during Boston's 104-95 overtime win in Game 4 of their first-round NBA playoff series Sunday in Boston. The series, all tied a 2-2, returns to Atlanta for Game 5 on Tuesday. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

    Atlanta — At this stage of an NBA playoff series, there's not much need for extra film work, no point in making any big adjustments.

    When two teams are tied heading into their fifth meeting in less than two weeks, familiarity is not an issue.

    "We know what they're trying to do and they know what we're trying to do," said Atlanta's Kyle Korver, looking ahead to Tuesday night's crucial Game 5 against Boston (8:30 p.m., TNT). "There's nothing the other team has not seen before."

    While Cleveland and San Antonio breezed through the opening round with four-game sweeps, the Hawks-Celtics series is right back where it started, essentially a best-of-three heading into a potentially pivotal contest at Philips Arena.

    After getting blown out in Game 2 in Atlanta, the Celtics bounced back with two nail-biting victories in Beantown, including an overtime triumph Sunday night that evened things up.

    The Hawks were kicking themselves for squandering Paul Millsap's 45-point effort and a 16-point lead in the second half, pointing to a shaky transition defense that allowed Boston to rip off a quick run near the end of the third quarter.

    Now, it's all about the little things.

    "It's going to come down to the 50-50 balls, come down to the hustle plays, come down to that one or two runs that really separates you from the other team," Korver said.

    Boston must avoid the poor starts that plagued the team in each of its first two games in Atlanta, including a Game 2 debacle that left the Celtics trailing by 21 points midway through the first quarter.

    "I wouldn't recommend 24-3 again. Just generally speaking, that would be a bad thing," coach Brad Steven said sarcastically. "I didn't think we lacked for effort in Game 2. We just didn't play well in the first 5 minutes. Then you're swimming uphill the rest of the game, and that's bad. They played at a different pace than we did in Game 2 at the start. That can't happen again."

    While the Celtics are focused on improving in the opening minutes, the Hawks must do a better job at finishing. They had a chance to win both games in Boston but couldn't pull out either one. More troubling, they are 0-6 in overtime games this season and have dropped nine straight going back to last season.

    "We need to be better in those situations," coach Mike Budenholzer said.

    With Avery Bradley still sidelined by a hamstring injury, the Celtics will again go with a bigger lineup that worked well in Boston. Jonas Jerebko, a 6-foot-10 Swede used sparingly during the regular season, is coming off a 16-point, 10-rebound performance in Game 4.

    Stevens isn't concerned about Jerebko's defensive struggles when matched against Millsap.

    "Millsap was scoring on everybody," Steven said. "Not just Jonas."

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