The Boston Celtics are in the midst of their NBA first-round playoff matchup against the Atlanta Hawks. As of writing, the Celtics hold a 2-1 series lead over the Hawks. Let’s take a look at what has conspired in the three previous games and preview the rest of the series.
In game one, Boston dominated the first half, holding a 30-point lead heading into the break. Boston did not look back, winning 112-99. Their defense was stifling, holding the Hawks to just 38.8% shooting from the floor. Atlanta only made five of its 29 3-point attempts. Jaylen Brown led the way offensively with 29 points, a game-high. Jayson Tatum poured in 25 and Derrick White added 24. Trae Young for the Hawks had a rough game, only scoring an inefficient 16 points. Dejounte Murray led the team in scoring with 24. Turnovers were an issue for the Celtics. Boston turned the ball over 16 times, compared to Atlanta’s 11.
Atlanta kept game two much more competitive. The Hawks shot an improved 33% from behind the arc, but it was not enough. Boston outscored Atlanta 64-40 in the paint en route to a 119-106 victory. Tatum and Murray both scored 29 points for their prospective teams. White scored 26, along with playing some great defense. White and last year’s Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart were once again able to limit Young’s impact in this game. The Hawks point guard had a +/- of -18, meaning that the Hawks were outscored by 18 when Young was on the court. There were some positives to come out of the loss for Atlanta. After struggling in game one, guard Bogdan Bogdanovic scored an efficient 17 off the bench, including four 3-pointers. The Hawks were able to limit Brown to only 18 points.
Boston started off game three strong once again and held a lead going into the second quarter. The Hawks went on to outscore them 41-30 in the second quarter, including a 19-2 run, giving them the 74-67 advantage. The Celtics tied the game early in the second half, but could never regain the lead. Atlanta ended up winning the high-scoring bout 130-122. Young was great this game, scoring a game-high 32 points and nine assists while Murray tallied 25. The duo of Bogdanovic and Saddiq Bey provided much-needed shooting, combining for 30 points off the bench.
Offensive was not Boston’s issue. Tatum led the Celtics in scoring with 29, although he was not partially efficient. Brown once again scored under 20 points, while Smart and Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon combined for 41. The Celtics were out-rebounded 48-29, giving up 11 offensive rebounds. Atlanta also capitalized on Boston’s sloppiness, scoring 29 points off of Celtic turnovers.
Trae Young has to be elite in order for the Hawks to beat the defending Eastern Conference champions. Young has only reached his season averages in points and field goal percentage in one of the three playoff games. The one that the Hawks won. He needs to be putting up at least 25 points per game efficiently. The Hawks also need to continue to limit one of either Tatum or Brown. In game one, the All-Star duo both scored over twenty points and the Hawks got blown out. The Hawks won Game 3, a lot of that thanks to Brown being nearly invisible on the offensive side of the ball.
Speaking of which, Boston needs to find a way to get Brown going. Between both game two and game three, Brown only had a total of 29 shot attempts. He took 23 shots in game one alone. Brown should never take fewer shots in a game than Marcus Smart, especially in the playoffs. Inconsistency from their stars is what ended up causing Boston to lose the No. 1 seed to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics’ top guys will have been great if they hope to make another finals trip.