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Celtics topple Hawks in hard-fought win

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Despite shooting poorly for the entire first half, the Celtics put together a tough, but rewarding win

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics have spent the recent past modeling themselves on the Atlanta Hawks.  They hope to use ball movement, spacing, and discipline to overcome a lack of traditional star power.  Tonight, Boston went to war with the team they hope to emulate, and came away the victor in a game that highlighted how different these teams can be.

Early on, it seemed clear that Boston's bigs would have to carry much of the load for the team.  The first quarter featured some strong play down low, with a bit of selfless hero ball on the perimeter.  There were too many instances where players settled for three pointers, and far too many instances where they would stop the ball to look at their options, rather than rapidly move the ball around the court.  This caused their offense to stagnate throughout much of the early going.  As a team, they shot only 34% through the first half.

Fortunately, Boston's style of play was such that it could afford to shoot poorly.

Rebounding and turnovers were the story of this game.  The Hawks pulled down 35 rebounds in the contest, compared with Boston's 50.  The Celtics were paced by Jared Sullinger's 10 boards, but three players hauled in at least eight, and every single player who entered the game for Boston secured at least one rebound.

The game was all tied up at the half, 45-45, after a hard-fought first two quarters.

In the third, the offense continued some of its stagnation, until the defense started to pick things up.  Guards and bigs alike started to chip on drivers, and the Hawks started turning the ball over as a result.  With transition opportunities presenting themselves, the Celtics were able to put their jump-shooting woes behind them, and finally started to rack up some points.

The confidence eventually seeped into their jump-shooting, and the buckets started to fall.  Isaiah Thomas and Kelly Olynyk combined to shoot 7-15 from beyond the arc, Crowder finally started to find the bottom of the cup, and the defense and rebounding held strong.  There were some touch-and-go moments in the fourth quarter, as a stretch of sloppy play, and some spectacular play by Hawks guard Dennis Schroder, opened up the door for a comeback.  Thankfully, IT and Crowder put together a run towards the end of the 4th to keep the game out of reach.  The Celtics won, with a final score of 106-93.

Quick Notes

  • Marcus Smart had a poor shooting night, finishing with five points on ten shots.  However, he did a tremendous job guarding Kyle Korver.  The Demolition Man was able to almost completely shut down the former All-Star whenever he drew him as an assignment.
  • Dennis Schroder flashed all the skills of a starting-caliber point guard in this contest.  While he wasn't a terribly efficient shooter tonight, he was able to get to the rim several times.  We've been talking about Rozier being fast with the ball, but Schroder moves like lightning.
  • Sullinger had another strong outing tonight, continuing a very strong start to the season.
  • While he didn't look very good early, Isaiah Thomas turned it on in the second half, finishing with 23 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, and a couple of steals.  Interestingly, he (and the rest of the Celtics offense) was much more successful when he functioned as more of a cog in the offense, than as its entire engine.  As soon as he took some of the pressure off of himself and stopped forcing things, the whole floor opened up for him and his teammates.
  • He only saw limited action, but RJ Hunter looked strong again.  A quick, deep 3 was followed by a solid box-out, leading to a contested rebound.
  • Al Horford's 3-point shot looked pretty good today.  He's going to start pulling big men away from the rim more and more consistently.  The big guy continues to get better and better.
  • It was a great night for defensive play-making.  Amir Johnson logged three blocks and three steals, while Jae Crowder continued his streak of thievery with a total of 4 takeaways on the game.

Boston will try to put a win streak together when they face off against the Thunder on Sunday.  The Hawks will attempt to get back to their winning ways with a game against Utah that same evening