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Celtics depth leads them to Game 2 win over Hawks: ‘that’s the beauty of being on a great team’

Boston’s bench is carrying a heavy load this series—and that’s a great thing.

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

BOSTON – In Game 2 against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night, the Boston Celtics once again showed off their versatility. Defensively, this meant holding the Hawks to just 106 points with a beautiful mix of interior dominance and forcing turnovers. Offensively, it was their ability to mix in three-point shooting with a forceful paint attack.

But as a whole, it was about their depth.

Jayson Tatum still led the team in scoring, and Robert Williams still provided an emphatic block, but the entire team stepped up and overwhelmed Atlanta as a group.

“Confident about the depth. Confident about the lineups and the different lineups we can play,” said Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla. “When I mentioned depth, I mentioned the number of players, but I also mentioned the different ways that we can play with the same guys.”

Everywhere the Hawks turned, another Boston player was there to shut them down or nail a shot on the offensive end. Each player took on a slightly different role, providing energy where the Celtics needed it.

For Derrick White, that role was that of a secondary scorer. He took over for long portions of the game, particularly in the 4th quarter when he scored 14 of the the Celtics’ 29 points, cleaning up Boston’s mess and getting anywhere he wanted on the offensive end.

The Celtics guard even earned MVP chants from the TD Garden crowd - an occurrence usually saved for Tatum or Jaylen Brown.

“I was happy for him,” Tatum said of White’s MVP chants. “He’s been playing his a** off these last two games. Obviously, a big, big reason why we’ve won these last two games. We need him to continue to play at this level, and he can. So, I was happy to hear that. We talked about [the chants] after the game. He was like, ‘that’s what it feels like?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I guess.”

White finished the game with 26 points, second to only Tatum’s 29, as well as seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, and three blocks. White shot 11-of-16 from the field and 2-of-5 from three-point land.

The Celtics’ big men also played huge roles in Game 2. Williams’ and Al Horford’s impact will always be felt on defense — they recorded two and three blocks, respectively — but they also brought it on the opposite end.

Williams took charge on offense in the third half, calling for the ball when he felt he had a mismatch and finishing around the rim. He also cleaned up a miss using his great touch.

Meanwhile, Horford played his usual role behind the arc, nailing big shots when Boston needed it most. He drained two big threes for the Celtics.

Both have taken on whatever role the team needs them to, and Williams, in particular, has had to make a big mental shift as he’s now coming off the bench. But he hasn’t thought twice about it.

“We have a bunch of guys that don’t really care [about whether they start],” Mazzulla said before the game. “They want to win. This is a very well-connected locker room that has a lot of experience. That has seen a lot of successes and failures, and we’re in a window now where everybody’s willing to put everything aside to want to win.”

Moving down the line, Malcolm Brogdon bounced back in Game 2 after a shaky Game 1 performance. He gave Boston a little bit of everything, piling up 13 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists.

Even Sam Hauser gave the Celtics a small boost. The second-year forward only hit one three, but he also corralled three boards and remained steady on the defensive end. Trae Young and the Hawks continuously attacked him, but he didn’t budge.

At every turn, Boston had a player ready to attack the Hawks. Tatum and Brown played like their normal selves, and Atlanta should expect that level of play. But with how many players there on the Celtics roster capable of taking over, they were engulfed in green.

“That’s the beauty of being on a great team,” said Brown. “To be able to have multiple threats out there. To be able to play the game in different ways and win in different ways. Tonight was an example of that. D-White just exploded. And on any given night, it could be anybody. So, we just got to encourage that.”

Heading out on the road, the Celtics will look to continue their dominance. And based on the first two games, the best way to do that will be by utilizing their depth.

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