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Celtics fall to Hawks in disappointing effort

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After a strong first quarter, the Boston Celtics fell off a cliff with their execution, as the Hawks collectively found their stroke from long range and forced an array of turnovers.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

After four straight games in this series in which the home team came away victorious, the home-cooking trend continued, as Atlanta buried the Celtics in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.

This game started out a good deal more slowly than the previous few, as neither team shot well at all in the first quarter. Even though both teams quickly moved to small lineups, which ideally maximize shooting, both sides were having a very hard time finding the bottom of the cup. The only two Celtics players who were able to shoot well in the first frame were Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder, who went a combined 4 of 7 from long range in the first. A pair of those buckets, one from each of them, came at the end of the quarter to give the Celtics the 20-15 lead going into the second.

That momentum continued in the early parts of the second frame, as Boston opened up a 10-point lead. Unfortunately, it would not last. It has been a fortunate truth so far in this series that the Hawks have not shot as well as they can. That convenient trend ended in the second quarter, as Kent Bazemore caught fire with three straight threes. That, along with terrifically efficient low-post scoring from Mike Scott, brought the Hawks even with the Celtics and spurred on the rest of the Atlanta team, resulting in a 32-19 quarter that left Boston fans seeing terrible visions of certain not-to-be-discussed quarters over the last couple of weeks.

Atlanta took an 8-point lead in the half, along with all of the momentum.

The third quarter was even worse. Honestly, I would rather not discuss it much. Isaiah Thomas scored two baskets, bringing him to 2-of-9 shooting at that point in the night (5 points), but he was not able to get himself going in any meaningful way. Suffice it to say that the Celtics made a plethora of sloppy plays and had even more lapses in effort and intensity. As the bell sounded on the end of the third, the Hawks had secured an 89-62 lead.

Things went from bad to worse. With 3 minutes down in the 4th quarter, Isaiah Thomas drove to the hoop for a slick layup, but came up limping. He turned his ankle and almost immediately committed a foul so that he could head straight to the locker room. All of Boston will be waiting with bated breath for the results of an examination of that ankle.

With 8 minutes left in the game, Brad Stevens shifted to a lineup of Terry Rozier, RJ Hunter, James Young, Jordan Mickey, and Tyler Zeller, effectively acknowledging that the game was out of reach.

The Hawks completed their victory with their deep bench, finishing the game on top 110-83.

Quick Notes

  • Marcus Smart had another solid game, with some good early shooting, and some improved decision-making. He shot 40% from long-range, with only one turnover on the evening. He'll need to make sure that his growth continues, as the pressure to perform in Game 6 will be higher than ever.
  • Isaiah Thomas, even before his injury, looked like a shell of himself. He did not play in that higher gear that he has for the majority of his time on the court. He will need to return to the level of intensity he has shown throughout the season, and particularly in Games 3 and 4.
  • No one Hawk won the game; this was a victory for their team. They, as a team, shot well, defended well, forced turnovers, moved the ball, and rebounded. They played like we have come to expect the Hawks to play in recent years. Make no mistake, the Celtics played very poorly after the first 11 minutes or so. Let's give credit where it's due, however - Atlanta played a great game.
  • On that matter, Budenholzer countered Brad Steven's small-ball lineups with a small-ball lineup of his own, to great effect. We'll need to adjust to that adjustment in order to find success moving forward.
Game 6 will be this Thursday, at 8 PM EST, in TD Garden.