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Boston Celtics (3-2) at Atlanta Hawks (2-3) Round 1 Game #6 4/27/23

The series moves back to Atlanta as the Celtics once again try to move past the Hawks into Round 2.

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

The Celtics always like to make it harder on themselves in the playoffs. They could have been off and resting up for a second round series against the 76ers who are already off and resting up for the second round. Instead, the Celtics lost focus and had no sense of urgency in Game 5 and so here they are back in Atlanta for a Game 6 against the Hawks.

The Celtics are still up 3 games to 2 and need just one more win to advance, but the fact that they could have and should have already advanced but didn’t because of their lack of focus and effort is somewhat frustrating. The Hawks have played harder than the Celtics in the games that they won. The Game 5 loss was a combination of coaching errors, lack of effort and lack of focus on behalf of the Celtics.

Since 1984, when the playoffs moved to a 16 team format, the team that wins the first two games at home have gone on to win the series 93.9% of the time (184-12). When a team leads the series 2-1, they go on to win the series 79.2% (210-55). When a team leads a series 3-1, that team goes on to win the series 95.6% of the time (152-7). When a team leads a series 3-2, they go on to win the series 85.6%.

It is crucial for the Celtics to win this game and close out the series. They were up 12 with 3 minutes left in Game 5 and simply collapsed, allowing the Hawks to go on a 12-0 run and get the win. It is very important for the Celtics to close this series out now. If it goes to a Game 7 with a confident Hawks team, anything can happen. Also, the more games they have to play, the more worn out they will be if they do make it to the Finals again.

DeJounte Murray will return to the Hawks after serving his one game suspension for bumping a referee at the end of Game 4. He will be fired up and the Celtics need to be ready for it. The Hawks do not have anyone on the injury list as of now. The Celtics have only Danilo Gallinari on the injury list who has missed the entire season as he rehabs his torn ACL.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Malcolm Brogdon
Grant Williams
Sam Hauser
Luke Kornet
Blake Griffin
Mike Muscala
Payton Pritchard
Robert Williams III
Justin Champagnie

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Hawks Starters

Hawks Reserves
Saddiq Bey
Bogdan Bogdanovic
Bruno Fernando
AJ Griffin
Aaron Holiday
Jalen Johnson
Vit Krejci
Tyrese Martin
Garrison Matthews
Onyeka Okongwu

2 Way Players
Trent Forrest
Donovan Williams

None listed

Head Coach
Quin Snyder

Key Matchups

Marcus Smart vs Trae Young
In the first two games of the playoffs, Young averaged 20 points, 3 rebounds 7 assists and 2 steals. In Game 3, he upped his game and finished with 32 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists and 1 steal. In Game 4, he once again upped his game and finished with 35 points, 3 rebounds, 15 assists and 2 steals. Then in Game 5 he finished with 38 points, 4 rebounds, 13 assists and 2 steals, including a long 3 to win the game. He has been gaining more and more confidence as the series has gone on. The Celtics need to slow him down and not allow him to get going in this game.

Derrick White vs DeJounte Murray
Murray has played well in the 4 games he has played in. He averaged 26.5 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 3.5 steals in the first two games. In the 3rd game, he finished with 25 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal. In Game 4 he averaged 23 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal and 2 block. After being suspended for Game 5, he is going to come into this game with a lot of energy and a chip on his shoulder. The Celtics need to defend him well and keep him from having a big game.

Honorable Mention
Jayson Tatum vs John Collins
John Collins woke up in Game 5 and finished with 22 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist. He shot 50% from the field and 44.4% from beyond the arc. But, this is a key matchup for Jayson Tatum as much as it is for Collins. Tatum has to play better than he did in Game 5 when he shot 38% from the field (8-21) and 10% from beyond the arc (1-10). He also took ill advised shots and often played iso ball instead of passing to an open teammate. Tatum has to play much better in this game if the Celtics are to get a win and advance.

Keys to the Game
Defense- Defense is always a key to winning games and defense becomes even more important in the playoffs. The Celtics’ defense was very good in the first two games but that defensive intensity didn’t show up in Game 3. They allowed Atlanta to score 74 points in the first half, and although they played a little better on the defensive end in the second half, the first half gave the Hawks confidence. Thankfully, the Celtics played much better defense in Game 4 and got the win. In Game 5, they slacked off on defense in the 4th quarter and it allowed the Hawks to go on a 12-0 run and win the game. They need to make defense a priority and play tough lock down defense on every possession of the game if they hope to close out the series in this game.

Rebound - Next to defense, rebounding is a key to winning. In the 3 regular season games, Atlanta out-rebounded the Celtics 143-136. The Celtics out rebounded the Hawks 54-45 in Game 1 but the Hawks out-rebounded the Celtics 49-44 in Game 2 and they out-rebounded the Celtics 48-29 in the loss in Game 3. The Celtics once again won the rebounding battle in Game 4 49-42. In Game 5, the Celtics out-rebounded the Hawks 43-34 but Atlanta had 17 second chance points to 12 for the Celtics. The Celtics need to aggressively go after every rebound. They can’t afford to give the Hawks extra possessions by allowing them to grab more rebounds.

Be Aggressive - The Hawks play hard and they out-played the Celtics in Game 3. The Hawks were the more aggressive team and they played harder and with more energy and the Celtics lost. The Celtics also allowed them to be more aggressive and to play harder down the stretch in Game 5. The Celtics must be the team that plays harder and that wants this win more. They have to be aggressive in diving for loose balls, in going to the basket, in getting stops on the defensive end, and in going after rebounds. The Celtics need to play with energy and aggressiveness for 48 minutes in this game with no let up. They can’t let the Hawks be the more aggressive team.

Get to the Basket - The Celtics made 21 threes in Game 3 and shot 43.8% from beyond the arc. However, they had just 40 points in the paint to 54 for the Hawks. In the Celtics’ win in Game 1, both teams had 54 points in the paint. In the Celtics’ win in game 2, the Celtics had 64 points in the paint to just 40 for the Hawks. In Game 4, they once again got into the paint for 56 points to just 44 for the Hawks. In Game 5 the Celtics had 60 points in the paint to 38 for the Hawks. The Celtics need to get to the basket more and not depend on 3 pointers so much. They have been successful in this series when they drive and get to the basket but not so much when they don’t.

Have a Sense of Urgency - The Celtics lacked a sense of urgency in Game 5. They came into the game playing as if they expected to win without having to play very hard. They coasted for much of the game and then it all came crashing down in the final 6 minutes when the Hawks’ confidence showed out and they played harder and with more urgency than the Celtics. Close out games are tough to win because the team that is behind always plays with a sense of urgency and often the team that is up expects to coast to a win. The Celtics need to come out from the start with a sense of urgency and play hard right up until the final buzzer.

Closeout On the Road - The Celtics are playing on the road and the Hawks have played very well at home this season. The crowd is going to be loud and very hostile toward the Celtics. They have to stay focused on playing their game and not be distracted by the travel and on the hostile crowd. The Hawks play much better at home and so the Celtics have to work even harder to get a win in their building. Also the Hawks are going to play very hard and with a sense of urgency to avoid being sent home. The Celtics can’t afford to lose focus for even a short time as they don’t want to give the Hawks any confidence in this one.

Coaching - Quin Snyder definitely out coached Joe Mazzulla in Game 5. Down the stretch when things started to go south for the Celtics he didn’t call a time out to rally his troops and get them back on track. He also played Blake Griffin his first minutes in the series in a close out game instead of Grant Williams who played very well when he got a chance in Game 3. Also, Derrick White or Malcolm Brogdon should have been in the game at down the stretch. With the Celtics needing offense, the double big lineup wasn’t working. Joe Mazzulla will hopefully learn from that game and do a better job in this game.

Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game a little differently with some calling it tight and others letting them play. Some refs just make head scratching calls while others try very hard to get them right. In many games, they call the game tight in the first half and then loosen up on the calls in the second half or vice versa. The Celtics have to adjust to how the game is being called and focus on playing the game and not on the bad calls or no calls.

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