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Celtics roll past the Hawks 112-99 in mostly easy Game 1 victory

The game was over after the first four minutes, even if it did get spicy for a few moments in the second half.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Boston Celtics earned a 112-99 Game 1 win against the Atlanta Hawks, and if you picked this series to be a quick sweep, there’s little we saw today that should push you to change your mind. Every Celtic in the rotation who suited up today had an solid game in some way, but Boston’s two best players led the way while Trae Young (16 points on 28% shooting) struggled for Atlanta. Jaylen Brown posted a smooth 29 points and 12 rebounds while Jayson Tatum put up his way to 25 points and 11 rebounds. Derrick White also added 24 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists.

Right from tip off, it was very apparent that this would be a cakewalk. I saw Jaylen Brown walk Dejounte Murray (24 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists) to the rim for a layup right before Jayson Tatum came right back down and did the same thing to DeAndre Hunter (11 points).

Opening up to a quick 10-point lead midway through the first quarter all the way through the end of the frame, an explosion was knocking at the door. It started with a bunch of layups, and by the time halftime started approaching, the Celtics decided to get hot from behind the 3-point line, transforming what was a normal 20-point blowout into a 30-point massacre.

Interesting lineup note: the Celtics’ rotation switched up a little bit. Rarely the first sub out, Marcus Smart (11 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks) was the first player to head to the bench for Robert Williams (12 points, 8 rebounds) after guarding John Collins (12 points) for a few possessions to open the game. Today, Jaylen Brown was the first to sub out between him and Tatum, with the latter playing the whole first quarter. This is also shaping up to be a Sam Hauser series, with Grant Williams riding the bench the whole first half. I expect the exact opposite to happen next round against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Trae Young struggled mightily, starting the game 1-7 from the field with a handful of turnovers. John Collins was the only player who looked even remotely comfortable. While Atlanta crashed the boards often in the second quarter, it didn’t actually translate to much in the way of second-chance points. Saddiq Bey and Jalen Johnson gave them decent minutes off the bench. They might end up being more valuable to ATL this series considering DeAndre Hunter was playing matador defense on the Jays.

Atlanta’s perimeter defense is just way too poor to give Boston any sort of resistance.

In the third quarter, the Celtics extended their lead all the way up to 32 before tricking away for the second half of the frame. Armed with a 23-10 run, the Hawks battled their way back to . . . a 19-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. This is something to keep an eye on, though, because you don’t want Atlanta getting any sort of confidence. Sweeps are made mentally before the series reaches the final game. That includes keeping your foot on the gas and maximizing rest for the stars.

Unfortunately, the Celtics continued to fool around to start the fourth, letting the deficit get as low as 12 points. The run extended to 32-12 as the Hawks battled with more energy. Bogdan Bogdanovic turned up, making things a bit more interesting. A few buckets later, and the game was over after Boston pushed the lead right back to 20. Nothing to worry about! Atlanta tried to hold on, but they ran out of time. That run probably ends sooner if Robert Williams played more minutes.

For what it’s worth, Atlanta looked at its best when Trae Young was on the bench. Joe Mazzulla will have plenty to pick at in film sessions to keep the team sharp after that lackadaisical second half. If Boston can keep controlling the boards, they’ll get plenty of rest before the next round.

Game 2 against Atlanta will be Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBATV as Boston goes for the 2-0 series lead.

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