During the regular season, the Atlanta Hawks shot 48.3% from the field and 35.2% from 3 point land. In game 3, they shot 56.0% and 44.1% respectively. A lot goes into those stats, including the Celtics defense (or lack thereof), playing at home, and simply getting hot. But that’s the story of the game (along with rebounding).
If the Celtics allow this to become a trend, it would be very concerning. However, I’m not overly concerned because I don’t believe it will be a trend. The Celtics were caught off guard by the Hawks attacking the paint and setting their picks up higher. That let them get into a rhythm and build a lead that was just too much for Boston to overcome. I’m pretty sure that the coaching staff and players will make the appropriate adjustments and bring the right energy to game 4.
I don’t make that statement based on blind faith. I say it based on historical data. The Celtics have surely turned in some terrible defensive performances at times this season. However, on the aggregate, they were still the 2nd ranked defensive team in the whole league. They have defenders up and down the rotation, most of whom have playoff experience from last season.
The Hawks, meanwhile are a team that can run hot and cold on offense. They are better than they showed in games 1 and 2, but they aren’t as good as they showed in game 3. Over a 7 game series, water finds its level (and I don’t think it will take more than 5 games to get there).
As badly as the Celtics defended and rebounded, they were still a few shots away from stealing the win anyway. I expect a convincing win in game 4 followed by closing out the series back in Boston. Maybe that’s misplaced overconfidence but I’m also unwilling to panic after one bad game. The Hawks, for all their faults, are a talented team that can get hot and go on runs. That happens in the playoffs. It is up to the Celtics to minimize those runs and prove that they are the better team.
Game 3 felt like the Hawks best shot. I’d be shocked if they could repeat it in game 4 or for the rest of the series. Celtics in 5.