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Till Next Year, Atlanta: Celtics 104, Hawks 92



ESPN; Other side: Peachtree Hoops, Hoopinion

Two things happened to turn this game from a weirdly competitive one into an easy C’s win: 

• Joe Johnson was 0-3 with zero points and two turnovers in the second half. The Celtics sent double teams at him again, though not as aggressively as last week, and it worked again.

• The Celtics turned the ball over just seven times in a 29-minute stretch starting at the 7:00 minute mark of the second quarter and stretching toward the last two minutes of garbage time.

That’s not extraordinary care for the basketball or anything, but that turnover rate–about one every four minutes–would put the C’s right with San Antonio, Detroit and Miami atop the league in terms of taking care of the ball. And that, combined with Johnson’s strange disappearance (three shot attempts?) in the second half, was enough to help the C’s pull away from a team they really should have pulled away from a bit earlier. 

Boston outshot the Hawks 54 percent to 34 percent in the first half but were only up by four, 52-48, because Atlanta had attempted 18 free throws and grabbed ten first half offensive boards–four by Zaza Pachulia in just six minutes of play. (He victimized a Perkins-Moore-Pierce front line for all of those boards).

This was a pretty clean offensive game for the Celtics, in terms of taking the right shots and making them. Rondo beat Bibby off the dribble and hit some lay-ups. Perk used his size advantage to get some easy buckets in the post. Allen and Pierce took their jumpers in the flow. The screen/roll and pick/pop plays produced easy looks. Nothing seemed forced.

And then there’s Big Baby, who’s going to get a lot of deserved kudos for his 7-of-10 performance from the field and his monster block on Solomon Jones late in the game–a block that drew this hilarious comment from Ben Q. Rock of the great Magic blog Third Quarter Collapse on the Twitter: “I say this with no hint of facetiousness: I had no idea Glen Davis could jump.”

Here’s Baby’s shot chart for tonight: 








Baby’s jumper has gotten all the attention, and that, too, is well deserved. There are few things more fun for hard core fans than watching professional players–these millionaires–work really, really hard to improve some aspect of their game. So much the better if it’s something easy to observe like Baby’s jumper. But what I’ve enjoyed about Baby lately is that he hasn’t become jumper happy despite probably feeling tempted to play with his new toy (Umm, sorry). Look at that chart. Six shots in close, four jumpers. And there were at least three instances tonight when Baby could have taken a mildly contested jumper and opted instead to pump fake and drive to the hoop. 

One of those plays resulted in a nifty lay-in, another resulted a typically awkward-looking overhead flip shot that bounced in for an And One; and another ended with Baby falling over. 

His jumper seems automatic, but like everyone’s jumper, it’ll come and go. It’s good to see he recognizes that and understands the importance of having a diverse offensive game and getting to the foul line.

Overall, the offense won this game tonight. The C’s will win just about every time they shoot 53 percent, including 6-of-14 from deep. 

The perimeter defense, I don’t think, was as good as the Hawks 35.6 percent number from the field makes it look. The C’s forced only 10 turnovers (though, in fairness, the Hawks take care of the ball well), and the Hawks missed some open threes early. Poor Mo Evans. He missed three open three-pointers in the first seven minutes and looked gun shy the rest of the way. He’s shooting 40 percent from deep overall. It’s one thing to design a defense that gives Josh Smith open threes; I don’t think the C’s were scheming to give Mo Evans open looks. They got a bit lucky.

There was one cog in the defense that was working at its highest level: the Beast. Jeff Clark composed a nice ode to Perk on CelticsBlog this week, and I’ve praised his offensive game, but it should be repeated again and again: Perk has become a monster defensive force. Those seven blocks tonight came in all varieties–stuffing his own man in the post, darting down from the mid-paint, sliding along the baseline. Great stuff. Makes you wonder what this defense could be like if the health gods would be kind to KG. 

A few more bullets–and the always exciting deflection count–after the jump.

• Deflection Count: 17; Last Game: 20; 

Today’s leader: Perk, with four deflections–all rebound to himself, or teammates (or, by accident, the Hawks).

Today’s leader on non-rebound deflections: Ray Allen, Mikki Moore and Rajon Rondo with two each. (Eddie House also had two, but one was a kicked ball). 

• Speaking of Mikki: Man, is he a whiner. He hustles, and he works hard, and all of that, but he’s Duncan-esque (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Duncan) in his belief that he has never committed a foul or violation of any kind. His hanging on the rim technical was an obvious call–he almost did a pull-up on the thing–and he acted as if he’d been wronged.

• Marbury Report: 1-of-7, and the jumper looks bad–we had one Nothing But Glass. His true shooting percentage on jumpers is about 30 percent (per 82games), and that’s just not good enough. The passing is nice, but if he’s going to take seven shots, he’s gotta make three of them.

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