Other than the jersey colors, Game 6 ran pretty much the same path as Game 5. The Celtics played great D early and forced several turnovers, but they only got 3 points off of them and struggled to hit shots overall. This led to various players forcing shots, and Atlanta was eventually able to respond and pull away by halftime.
Isaiah Thomas’s call for his teammates to step up and help him were met with a couple of sparks, but not much else. Jonas Jerebko hit a couple of big threes, Marcus Smart made a few successful drives to keep it close, and Jae crowder finally got hot after 23 quarters to pull the deficit to respectability late. But Thomas was aggressively doubled again, and Boston struggled to make Atlanta pay for it.
Defensively, the team struggled again. There could be a myriad of factors attributed to that – Avery Bradley’s absence, the team looking exhausted, frustration from missed shots, you name it. Whatever the reason, Atlanta got to the hoop at will, rotations were missed, and the Hawks put the game mostly to bed with a 37 point third quarter.
This was a terrible matchup from the start. Atlanta’s defense found a way to snuff out what,little offense Boston could muster, and Boston’s defense seemed to run out of gas by the middle of game 4. It was going to be hard for Boston to pull it off at full strength, let alone with all the bumps, bruises, strains, and sprains they suffered as the series went on.
A plethora of questions need to be answered about this team, both as a result of this series and the season as a whole. But there’s plenty of good to take from what happened this year. The team improved as a whole, in record, standing, and ability. Thomas looks like a legit offensive piece to build around. Crowder is a dangerous multi-tool player. Stevens is suddenly a legitimate recruiting piece this offseason. Lots of questions remain, but lots to look forward to, as well.
Lots more to come, about tonight and the offseason, in the coming days. But be proud of this team for now. The past few days sullied it a bit, but the future is very bright.
As Jesse noted yesterday, this series is a lesson in punch, counter punch. In Game 3, Brad Stevens decided to go small, with Jonas Jerebko starting in the frontcourt instead of Jared Sullinger. In Game 5, Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer responded to a rough first seven minutes by going smaller, taking Al Horford out of the game and moving Paul Millsap to center. With their backs against the wall in Game 6, one strategy open to the Celtics would be to go all in with this nesting-doll of a series. So if Game 5 proved the Hawks are looking to fight someone their own size, perhaps the Celtics should counter by becoming even smaller.
A popular recurring theme when talking about a playoff series is the “chess match” that goes on between the coaches and their rosters, the tweaks in rosters and schemes that happen between games. Punch-counterpunch. So it might be tempting to say last night was the result of the latest chess move by Mike Budenholzer in an extended match between the Hawks and Celtics.
I think at this point, though, the chess match is over. Tomorrow will mark the tenth time these two very evenly matched teams have faced each other this season. There’s very little either could do at this point that would come as a surprise. This is now a rock fight, and last night, the Hawks had a much bigger rock.
Not even new shoes for Isaiah Thomas at halftime could help him—or the Celtics—buy a bucket in this absolute slaughtering in Atlanta. The Celts will return to the TD Garden for Game 6 on Thursday, down 3-2 in the best-of-seven series with the Hawks.
In a relatively close first half that saw multiple lead changes, and even a 10-point Celtics lead, this game was won definitively by the Atlanta Hawks in the third quarter. While the Celtics scored more points in the third than any of the other quarters, their measly 23 points were no match for the Hawks’ 42.
For as badly and low-scoring as the first two quarters were, the Hawks flipped a switch in the third, going over 70 percent from the field, with Kent Bazemore as the main scoring catalyst. Meanwhile for the Celts, nobody, it seemed, could make any real meaningful offensive contributions—and they lacked the presence of a real superstar capable of taking over [or keeping a team in] a game. Read the rest of this entry »
On Sunday night, in one of the wonkier games in recent memory, the Boston Celtics evened their first round series at two games apiece with the Atlanta Hawks after pulling away for a 104-95 victory in overtime.
In honor of this Game 4 win, here’s a quartet of lessons we can take away:
1. Atlanta has a forcefield around the rim.
The Celtics are shooting just 45.9 percent at the rim when at least one Hawk is in the restricted area, per NBA.com. In the regular season, the Hawks allowed opponents to shoot 51.1 percent in such situations––still a stingy mark good for tenth in the league.
They don’t have any particularly good shot-blockers; center Al Horford stands just 6-foot-10 and Paul Millsap is two inches shorter than that. So how do they do it?
What Atlanta lacks in size they more than make up for in athleticism and mental acuity. Their perimeter players––Kent Bazemore, Jeff Teague, Thabo Sefolosha––are quick defenders and can dart to close out on kick-outs after taking a few extra steps toward the paint to clog things up. Look how attentive all five guys are to the drive on this play:Read the rest of this entry »
After 53 minutes (five of them free!) of unthinkably delicious action, the Boston Celtics came out on top 104-95 to even the series with the Atlanta Hawks at two games apiece.
Atlanta’s Paul Millsap finished with 45 points––one shy of his career mark––on 19-of-31 shooting. He did it every which way: drives to the hoop against slower defenders, post-up bullyball when being checked by smaller dudes, 3-pointers.
But in the fourth quarter, he went cold. With about eight minutes to go, Brad Stevens stuck Marcus Smart, six inches shorter, onto Millsap, and it worked. He only scored two baskets on six shots the rest of the way.
Everyone, it seemed, made big contributions. Isaiah Thomas snuck a layup between two defenders at the rim to send the game into overtime. Smart nailed two 3-pointers and slammed home a dunk to give the Celtics a lead in the middle of the fourth. Amir Johnson’s defense was subtly spectacular.
Jonas Jerebko, starting in his second straight game, provided some timely offensive sparks, especially at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth with a particularly impressive/heroic/comedic stretch of spinning fallaways, 3-pointers, and open-court chops.
Boston had five players finish in double figures (nearly six––Johnson had nine). The Hawks and Celtics meet up for again for Game Five on Tuesday in Atlanta.
Facing on 0-2 series deficit against the Atlanta Hawks, the Celtics returned to the TD Garden in hopes that some home cooking would yield positive results.
Not only did the C’s grab a rather convincing win – the first playoff victory in Brad Stevens’ NBA career – but Boston’s feisty All Star point guard Isaiah Thomas had himself a career night.
IT finished with 42 points, his highest scoring total ever as a pro. He set the tone with some aggressive play and hit some important shots down the stretch. The Garden was absolutely rocking, and when the game clock expired, Isaiah found himself among some very illustrious company.
My musings, notes, and questions, in no particular order, from a very entertaining game of Celtics’ playoff basketball:
– I didn’t see anything particularly radical in Boston’s offensive gameplan tonight. Much was made in the moment of the small lineup Boston deployed in the last five minutes, featuring Jerebko at the 5. It really shouldn’t have been that surprising, though. The Celtics finally found a semblance of offensive rhythm during the season when they deployed the three guard lineup anchored by Crowder and Olynyk in the frontcourt. The prevalent lineup tonight was essentially that formula with Jerebko subbing in as a faster, poorer shooting version of Olynyk.
Tonight represented a return to past success more than anything else. This team has been, and always will be, at their best when they play under control, move the ball, and create enough space to operate. They just needed to see some shots fall to reaffirm their good work. Not a ton of them did tonight, but enough did.
An explosive first quarter, an excellent fourth and 42 big points from Isaiah Thomas fueled Boston, and the Celtics grabbed their first victory of the series to the tune of 111-103.
Perhaps a trip home was all the Celtics need. Even before the opening tip the crowd was singing and cheering, letting the players know what it means to protect home court. And the C’s responded in kind.
One of the things I try to avoid most completely as a writer covering the Boston Celtics is reacting too quickly to a chain of events, or a small sample size.
The NBA, after all, is a highly complex and complicated league in which 30 teams play a highly complex and complicated game. Broad patterns (Kelly Olynyk’s 35.1 percent shooting from long range in his rookie season, for example) are much more likely to be indicative of future success than small ones (Olynyk’s 25.6 points per game in the last three games of his rookie season). Context is crucial in the NBA, and few things offer context better than a large sample size.
So when I — like hundreds of others already have — point out that the Boston Celtics have begun the Brad Stevens-era 0-6 in the postseason, I want to be very clear that in no way am I saying Stevens can’t coach in the postseason, or that his teams are unable to deal with pressure-packed situations. That would be an incredibly hot (and also bad) take, similar to saying that when the 2013-14 Celtics started 0-4, Stevens didn’t know how to win a regular-season basketball game.
That being said, for an antsy Celtics fanbase, it would be very comforting if Boston could just pull out tonight’s game. Read the rest of this entry »