The Boston Celtics took a loss in Atlanta on Friday night to the Hawks, 122-130. However, they still have a threatening lead at two games to one heading into the fourth meeting of the series. Atlanta, all-time, when down 0-2 in a series went on to lose all 20 series. The Celtics, on the other hand, are 41-1 when up 2-0 in a playoff series.
Here are three takeaways from Friday’s game and what the Celtics need to do to take the series in five games.
One big thing stood out in Boston’s loss: their defense. In game one, Boston held the Hawks to under 100 points with 38% shooting and 17% from 3-point range. Atlanta shot a little better in the second game, 42% and 33.3% from 3.
In their third matchup, the Hawks improved their shooting to 56% overall and 44% from 3. Both percentages are up greatly from not only the previous games, but their season averages as well (48% and 35%, respectively).
The problem doesn’t lie in the Celtics’ offense. The Celtics shot a respectable 49% overall, 44% from 3. They also turned the ball over a mere 12 times, under the average of 13 per game. If there is a question to be asked of the Celtics offense, it would come in shot selection.
The Celtics’ defensive scheme was similar to that of game one and two. The Hawks figured out the plan and were able to capitalize, especially in the second quarter, where they had 41 points. Combined with the 33 points from the first quarter, the Hawks scored the highest points in any half in their playoff history at 74.
Boston’s coach, Joe Mazzulla, will have to head back to the defensive lab where Boston succeeded heavily in games one and two.
The Age of the 3-Pointer and Poor Shot Selection
When Boston fell down by 14 in the second quarter, the Celtics were able to crawl back to a 7 point deficit at half. Boston knocked down 15 3-pointers in the first half, but only hit 6 in the second half. They also missed 17 total in the second half.
Boston’s high inefficiency from range in the second half, fourth quarter more specifically, can be seen by their deficit. Many times the Celtics would be within range to cut the lead to single-digits, or even tie the game, a 3-pointer would come out of the possession. Often times, the 3-pointer would be rushed or shot in a poor position.
On the stat sheet, no one player or performance dragged down the statistics heavily. The Celtics’ efficiency in the first half and the second half were two completely different teams.
Some Celtics’ were able to find success from behind the curve. One in particular, Grant Williams, shot both well and smart. Williams came in the game earlier than expected, perhaps to White’s early foul trouble. He had 14 points on 100% shooting from both the field and 3.
Another adjustment Mazzulla will have to take is finding the open man and the open shot.
The Hawks’ “Best” and The Celtics’ Average
While the Hawks did win game three on Friday, many fans still speculate the series to be over in five games. The Atlanta Hawks did everything to perfection (as perfect can be) and still were held in a tight game against Boston.
Atlanta, in Friday’s game, had more PPG, RPG, FG%, 3FG%, and BPG than their season average. The bench caught fire quickly with 44 points, along with 32 from Young and 25 from Murray.
Friday’s game was a must-win for Atlanta. They were either to go down 3-0 (and no team has come back from this record) or steal a game on their home-court. The expectations were never higher for the Hawks.
From Boston’s perspective, the win would’ve been nice but game four is now a must-win situation for Boston. If Atlanta is to get the momentum going back to Boston, anything could happen. However, with key adjustments, Boston should be able to take game four and come back to Boston with the hope of the second-round.
Boston faces Atlanta on Sunday night at 7 PM EST.
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(Featured image credited to Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)