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Celtics urged to improve rebounding after Game 3 loss to Hawks

Joe Mazzulla had a strong message for his team the day after their rough loss.

Boston Celtics v Atlanta Hawks - Game Three Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In Game 3 against the Atlanta Hawks, the Boston Celtics’ defense wasn’t up to par. They got run over in drop coverage as Trae Young decided to impose his will in the lane.

Compounding that, Young and Dejounte Murray made some big shots in the final few minutes, while both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown missed a couple of good looks. Boston stumbled at every opportunity they had to tie the game or get close.

But at practice on Saturday, head coach Joe Mazzulla gave Robert Williams a message to deliver to the media, and it encapsulated the biggest issue from the Celtics’ Game 3 loss.

“Get an MFing rebound.”

On Friday night, the Celtics gave up 11 offensive rebounds to the Hawks, including five in the fourth quarter alone.

This wasn’t a new problem, though. Atlanta nabbed 14 offensive boards in Game 1 and 19 in Game 2. The difference was in the way the Hawks were able to capitalize.

In Game 1, the Hawks shot 4-of-14 on second-chance opportunities, scoring just 12 points. In Game 2, those numbers remained similar at 5-of-13 for 13 points.

Yet despite pulling down their fewest offensive boards in a game this series in Game 3, Atlanta scored 23 second-chance points, shooting 9-for-15.

“They capitalized on their second chance opportunities, unlike what they did in the first two games,” Mazzulla said after the game. “They had 11 offensive rebounds. We held them to less than what they [had in the first two games], but they made more shots, so it was harder for them to get more.”

Atlanta found a new offensive gear in Game 3. At home, they let the crowd boost them up, and in turn, they shot their best percentages from the field by a wide margin.

The Hawks failed to crack the 43% mark from the field in either of the first two games nor did they shoot better than 33% from deep. In Game 3, those numbers skyrocketed to 56.0% from the floor and 44.1% from distance.

Young’s ability to get inside, combined with the red-hot shooting of Atlanta’s role players–Saddiq Bey was 3-for-3 from behind the arc, Bogdan Bogdanovic was 3-for-4, and Jalen Johnson was 2-of-3–allowed the Hawks to punish the Celtics for every mistake.

“A team like that who has shooters, they get second chance shots, it gives them momentum, and they’re at home–it’s a dangerous combination,” Marcus Smart explained after the game. “Just can’t let guys be comfortable and outrebound us like that.”

For the Hawks, their constant pressure on the glass is embedded into their gameplan, and now, it’s up to the Celtics to respond.

“They go every time. That’s really it. There’s nothing tactical about it,” said Smart. “It’s just a matter of will, and they wanted it more tonight, and they go every night. We got to be able to stop that.”

Smart showed off his sheer will on the glass in Game 3, and the end result was him flat on his back. He’s now questionable for Game 4 with a low back contusion.

Hustling to the point of injury may not be the best idea moving forward, but if Boston hopes to fend off Atlanta’s offensive rebounding, taking a page out of Smart’s book could at least be a good start.

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