After sitting in the driver’s seat through the first two games, the Boston Celtics fell to the Atlanta Hawks 130-122 in Game 3 on the road at State Farm Arena. While Boston shot well from beyond the arc, they failed to answer Atlanta on the boards and the Hawks’ transition offense. The Celtics were outrebounded 48-29, and outscored in the pain 54-40 after tying or leading in paint points in the first two games.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Marcus Smart in his postgame press conference. If anything, Game 3 was much more about the Hawks than it was about the Celtics. Atlanta leaned heavily on their rebounding and paint presence, where the overwhelming majority of their points came from. Boston shot 43.8% from beyond the arc, but on almost 50 attempts (21-of-48 from three), their highest attempts total this series. While it was a frustrating loss, it felt like Atlanta making a stand on homecourt. Smart cited rebounds as a major issue for Boston, since it led to so many second chance buckets for the Hawks (outscored Boston 23-9).
“There’s nothing tactical about it,” said Smart on the Hawks winning the battle of the boards. “It’s just a matter of will. And they wanted it more tonight. They go every night. We’ve gotta be able to stop that. Like I said, they’re getting second-chance shots, they get to feeling good.”
The talks and chatter about a sweep ultimately fell short, but the messaging within the locker room has remained steady and consistent: take care of business and don’t underestimate your opponent. Boston will have the opportunity to answer on Sunday at 7PM EST in Atlanta, where they can potentially take a 3-1 lead...or, the Hawks tie this series up at two apiece.
Later in the game, Marcus Smart went up for a rebound attempt, took some contact in the air, and came down hard directly on his tailbone. While he ended up playing the rest of the game, it was still very much bothering him after the final whistle.
“Sore,” said Smart when asked by NBC Sport’s Abby Chin how his tailbone was feeling. “It’s sore. Same spot as the last time, (the fall) just caught me off guard. We’ll see how it feels in the morning.” With his physicality and playstyle, these types of injuries have become commonplace for Boston’s longest-tenured player and de facto tone-setter on both sides of the ball.
Marcus Smart on his tailbone: “It’s better than I expected it to be, to be honest.”— Souichi Terada | 寺田惣一 (@SouichiTerada) April 22, 2023
His absence would be a difficult one to work around, especially if Trae Young and Dejounte Murray are starting to find their bearings. Boston found themselves in foul trouble against Atlanta in Game 3, with both Jaylen Brown and Derrick White racking up whistles left and right; if the Celtics are trying to maintain a lead in this series, Smart is absolutely necessary. As of Saturday evening, Smart is listed as questionable for Sunday’s Game 4, after offering an update Saturday afternoon during media availability.
“Rewatching the play, I took a hard fall. I didn’t realize how high I was,” said Smart, “But, I’m ok, relatively speaking. A little sore today, but we’ll see how I feel tomorrow though. Not really sure where we’re at with playing, but we’ll see.”
On what the treatment plan is, Smart said “It’s soft tissue, so just trying to control the muscle spasms, and you don’t really wanna do too much because of the trauma that’s already there. Just kinda let it heal on its own right now.” Smart made a point to acknowledge that he’s had the same injury before, so he still has some remaining scar tissue that was aggravated.
“For the most part, I’m ok,” said Smart, “It’s better than I expected it to be this morning, so that’s a good sign.” Getting his fair share of bumps and bruises throughout the season is run of the mill at this point for Smart, and outside of a broken bone or something that would seriously hinder his movement, I’d expect to still see him on Sunday.
As of now, the Philadelphia 76ers have swept the Brooklyn Nets after winning Game 4 on Saturday 96-88; Sixers star and MVP candidate Joel Embiid did not play as he’s dealing with a knee injury. With Philly waiting in the wings, the sooner the Celtics can close this series out against the Hawks, the better.