1. The Celtics went up 2-0 over the Atlanta Hawks in a game that felt pretty similar to the first matchup. Game 2 started differently from Game 1, but by the end of the first quarter, it was following a familiar script.
Any thoughts or worries that the Hawks had figured out some stuff from Game 1 that would translate to the rest of the series dissipated relatively early. The Celtics started sloppy and didn’t have great body language, but after some key subs (shoutout to Malcolm Brogdon and Rob Williams for changing the energy), things settled in.
From the midway point of the first quarter and onward, Boston was in control of the game. Yes, the Celtics let go of the rope a little, but they did more than enough to win the game and were never really threatened. Again, this was a lot like Game 1.
With the series shifting to Atlanta, this is the best the Celtics have looked in the postseason in a few years now. That’s merely a fact vs any kind of overconfidence.
2. Boston is dominating in the paint in this series. Given the Celtics proclivity towards three-pointers and the Hawks being one of the better interior teams this season, that’s probably the biggest surprise of the series so far.
And Boston is dominating inside in a series of ways. They aren’t going to any one thing to get scores around the rim.
It’s been Jayson Tatum overpowering the Hawks defense with his size and skill:
It’s been Rob Williams being bigger and more athletic than the guys the Hawks switch onto him:
This one is a good example of Malcolm Brogdon pulling the ball out to give Williams the space to own his mismatch in the paint:
Sometimes, the Celtics are hustling and making smart plays before throwing in circus shots:
We said in the series preview, that Boston wouldn’t hesitate to go to straight post-up opportunities for Marcus Smart against Trae Young. The spacing here is terrific and Atlanta can’t bring help, because Smart will find a shooter. The result is an easy fadeaway in the lane:
No other team in the league can match a big-to-big DHO into a second DHO action designed to get the defense guessing before the driver can get downhill for the layup:
And finally, sometimes it’s attacking a poor defender in space. Brogdon is too good, too crafty, too poised and too strong for Bogdan Bogdanovic to stand much of a chance one-on-one:
3. On the other end of the floor, the Celtics rim protection has been excellent throughout the series. They blocked 12 shots in Game 2, which was one off the franchise’s postseason record for blocks in a game. Rob Williams and Al Horford are doing their things, but Boston’s guards are getting involved too.
This is already the fourth lob Marcus Smart has broken up in the series, and it came at the end of the first quarter of Game 2:
All-D White is doing his thing, as the best rim-protecting guard in the NBA (Bonus: Brogdon with the buzzer-beating banker!):
Trae Young is getting some points, because that’s what he does. But he’s having to work really hard for them and, sometimes, he’s not scoring at all:
4. Boston is winning the transition game too. Often, it’s because they’re running against the lazy Hawks defense. Derrick White leaks out and Jaylen Brown drops the hit-ahead pass on him here:
This one starts with a Brown swat on one end. Then, when the Hawks blow their matchups in transition, Malcolm Brogdon leaves it for Rob Williams to finish off at the basket:
Most transition opportunities are created off good defense. Brown gets the strip here and Brogdon rewards him with the assist:
You may have noticed that Brogdon is all over these clips. He played a terrific floor game in this one. He starts with the steal here and then adeptly runs the break before setting up Marcus Smart for the layup:
In the end, it was a transition hammer that put a cap on things for Boston:
5. Jayson Tatum did a good job working against the extra help Atlanta sent his way in Game 2. Tatum getting this pass out of the double-team quickly opened up Jaylen Brown against a scrambling Hawks defense:
Tatum sees the double creeping his way here, so he gets into his step-back before it could get there:
This is the inverse. This time the Hawks put two on the ball, almost anticipating Derrick White was going to try to get it right back to Tatum. Instead, he pops out and it’s an open triple:
We’ve talked for months (for two years, really) about how much Tatum’s passing has leveled up. He just sees the entire floor so well now. The Hawks are loading to him here, and he zips it crosscourt to Al Horford in the corner:
6. Derrick White’s confidence is sky-high right now. He shows it in a couple of different ways. This exact play probably played out thousands of times in the Spurs practice facility. White doesn’t panic against Dejounte Murray’s pressure. White simply, calmly and confidently drives Murray for the easy layup:
In the fourth quarter, with the Hawks hanging around, White dribbled into the pullup over his former teammate:
This one is just White letting it fly almost immediately off the catch, because he’s confident in his shot:
One more time, White goes coast-to-coast and finishes in the lane:
You can almost see the quiet confidence and just-noticeable-enough swagger dripping off All-D White right now.
7. The Hawks defense stinks. Boston is taking advantage of that in very direct ways, as seen in some of the clips above. Other times, the Celtics just use their ball and player movement to get easy scores.
Because the Hawks are crossmatched all over on this play, Jalen Johnson drifts too far from Marcus Smart and he gets an easy three off the kickout from Rob Williams:
Even though he’s right behind him, Trae Young loses Derrick White until this pass is bouncing by him:
It’s hard to tell even what this is, but it’s a mess. How do you leave Jayson Tatum this wide-open?
Saddiq Bey is trying to cheat the screen here. So, while it wasn’t the transition backdoor play, Smart was able to easily go over the top to find Brown for the back-cut alley-oop:
8. In an effort to be somewhat balanced, we’ll wrap with a couple of areas of minor concern.
Atlanta grabbed 19 offensive rebounds. Again, they missed a huge volume of shots (58 misses in Game 2 after 60 misses in Game 1), so some of that was just availability of offensive boards. But it was a little worse than Game 1.
On the plus side, the Hawks only scored 13 second-chance points on those opportunities. So, it hardly killed Boston.
9. The Celtics got a little sloppy with the ball again. This time it was passes more than it was steals off bad ballhandling.
The good news? They got it under control before it spiraled. And the Celtics did push the lead back up to 20-plus points before the endgame portion played out.
10. Boston heads to Atlanta up 2-0 and in pretty dominating fashion. If they keep playing the way they did in Games 1 and 2, the change in venue shouldn’t matter. The Celtics can expect the Hawks best shot in Game 3, as they should get a lift from the home crowd.
The most confidence-inspiring part of this start to the playoffs for Boston? They look like last year’s team on defense again. They are flying around, switching, scrapping, banging bodies and covering everything. That’s been the single biggest difference from the regular season Celtics.
Game 3 is on Friday. We’ll see if Boston can take a commanding series lead and get the Hawks thinking about summer vacation.