The Celtics faced off against the hottest team in the league tonight. You could take your pick of incredible streaks that Atlanta came into this game with, as they had won nine straight and 23 of their last 25 games. Luckily the Hawks rested Al Horford and Kyle Korver, two key contributors for them.
Avery Bradley scored the first five points for Boston, but the Celtics trailed early on. Atlanta's offense had it going early, scoring 10 points in 4 minutes. Boston's defense recovered briefly to keep them competitive though. There were a few defensive miscues that led to layups, but the Hawks made some tough shots too. Kelly Olynyk had a great first quarter. He led the Celtics in scoring with seven points. They finished the quarter tied at 24.
The second quarter started off okay for Boston as they matched the Hawks for the first six points. Then the Celtics got really cold. Like four points in seven minutes cold. They struggled to get anything going and Atlanta capitalized. On offense, Atlanta moved the ball extremely well in the second quarter. They had plenty of open looks, and created a 12 point lead going into half.
Jeff Teague was a key player for the Hawks in the first half with 14 points. Whether it was blowing by Brandon Bass for an uncontested layup, or hitting long range shots, he wasn't slowed much at all by Boston. Avery Bradley did erase a weak layup attempt, but Teague hit a three on the same possession.
Boston didn't really capitalize on Horford's absence in the first half. They took a ton of perimeter shots and only scored 20 points in the paint. Zeller was invisible, and Sullinger wasn't very efficient either. They were completely shut down in transition too. The Celtics only scored two fast break points in the entire half. With the Hawks shooting 55%, fast break opportunities weren't exactly abundant either.
Thankfully the Celtics started the third quarter out by making some shots. They couldn't put a dent into the lead because of turnovers though. That and an inability to stop the Hawks offense. Atlanta scored 32 points in the third quarter. They kept up their fantastic shooting, as they finished the third quarter shooting 57% from the field.
The Celtics trailed by 15 to start the fourth quarter. Boston started the quarter with their best defense of the game. They held Atlanta scoreless for the first three minutes and trimmed the lead to single digits. That was the closest the Celtics would come in this one. They cooled off on offense and allowed the Hawks to coast the rest of the way for an easy win.
Atlanta and Boston are two of the best teams in the NBA at limiting transition points. Boston is 4th in the league at scoring fast break points, so this was a key matchup. The Hawks won this easily in the first half. Boston had just two points in transition. They only finished with five for the game, which is well below their average for the season.
3 Point Shooting
Atlanta is absurdly good at shooting threes, even without Korver. They rank second in 3P%, while Boston is a bottom 10 team at 3P% allowed. As expected, the Hawks were deadly from beyond the arc tonight. They missed some shots in the 4th quarter garbage time to pull the average down, but it was a definite factor in building the lead.
The Hawks are a great team, but they didn't need to be tonight to win. The Celtics committed far too many turnovers when it mattered. They struggled all night to defend against the depleted, but still potent Hawks offense. This Celtics team is certainly a work in progress, but it's a little discouraging to see just how easily they were blown out tonight.