By: Jake Mackey
Everything was going just swimmingly for the Boston Celtics for the first 16-minutes of their first-round playoff game Tuesday night in Atlanta. It appeared as though they were feeding off the momentum they created after Sunday night’s overtime victory in Boston. They played tremendous defense against Atlanta in the first quarter and a half, locking in on Al Horford once again and limiting Paul Millsap. They forced Atlanta to take outside shots, and they were certainly missing those shots scoring only 15-points in the first quarter.
The Celtics lead by as much as ten in the second quarter, going up 29-19. That was as good as it would get for Boston on Tuesday however. The Celtics never stepped on the throat of the Hawks taking too many three point shots and not forcing the ball down low. In addition, the Celtics were careless with the basketball at the end of the first half and the Hawks fed off that, going on a 28-10 run to end the second quarter, taking a 47-39 lead into the break.
Atlanta came out firing in the third quarter hitting shots from all angles including three point land. Atlanta missed very little going on a 23-5 run in the final six minutes of the third quarter. From that point on the Celtics were completely out of it going down by 27-points at the end of the third and trailing 89-62 heading into the fourth. It did not get any better in the fourth as the Celtics ultimately ending up losing 110-83.
The worst part of this night for the Celtics and their fans came at the start of the fourth quarter. Isiah Thomas went up for a layup and clearly cam down very awkwardly on his ankle. He managed to play out the possession but committed a personal foul on the other end, and immediately hobbled off the court and into the locker room to a chorus of boos from the Phillips Arena crowd. It has been reported as a, “mild ankle sprain.”
As long as the words, “high ankle” aren’t in that report Isiah will be fine. Thomas said after the game, “I feel great, I’ll be ready for game six.” It could have just been out of frustration for Thomas who finished with a season low seven points on Tuesday. Thomas was clearly limited by Atlanta double-teaming him every time he touched the ball.
It was not one player who beat the Celtics on Tuesday night, it was a collaborative effort by Atlanta. The Hawks had four player’s in double figures, with Mike Scott leading the way off the bench with 17-points. Also, Kyle Korver came out firing from the three-point line once again going three of six from deep.
This game for the Celtics unfortunately was just another example of a team that isn’t all that ready for the playoff spotlight. On the road up by ten points early, and they were not able to put together solid plays offensively to maintain the lead, and they had not answer for their star player getting double-teamed. Also, they had no way to stop the bleeding when Atlanta went on their furious runs.
The Celtics now have to put this game behind them, and other players besides Isiah Thomas need to step up in order to stretch this series to seven games. Plain and simple, it’s win or go home on Thursday night for the green. How will Brad Stevens address that to his team? He was asked that in his post game presser, “I don’t think there’s any need to give a Knute Rockne speech.” Stevens is right, no speeches are needed, the home crowd should give the Celtics all the motivation they need on Thursday night.