By Patrick Whalen
The Celtics headed into Atlanta on Saturday as the second game of a back to back. The Celtics have come off back to back wins and look like they are starting to get things clicking on offense. A large part is because of Kyrie’s recent play as he has had back to back double doubles. Kyrie has not only been scoring at will but hes also gotten his teammates involved as he has had 29 assists in his last two games. But with the Celtics recent struggles on the road people began to question if this play would continue in Atlanta. The Celtics went into the game down a key man as Gordon Hayward stayed back in Boston as his wife is due with their third child any day now. To make up for it the Hawks were without a key wing of their own as Kent Bazemore was out for the game.
With Hayward out the Celtics got off to a slow start as they trailed by 8 at the end of the first quarter. They played much better in the second but still trailed 67-60 at the half. Of course the man keeping them in the game was Kyrie Irving who continuted his red hot play with 32 points on 11-19 shooting with 5 assists. He scored 15 of his 32 in the second quarter including this deep three to end the half to keep the Celtics within striking distance.
The Celtics again fought hard in the third but still trailed by 6 heading into the fourth. But in the fourth the Celtics offense came alive led by Jaylen Brown with 9 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile the Celtics defense held the Hawks to just 16 points in the fourth which helped propel the Celtics to their 113-105 win. Al Horford also came up huge in the fourth with the Celtics up just one he then scored 6 straight point to push the Celtics to a seven point lead that they would never relinquish. Horford was able to keep his recent good play up as well in this game with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Horford’s rebounding was key down the stretch as this tip in pushed the lead to seven with under two minutes to go.
Despite having a rough night shooting, 3-10 on the night, Jaylen Brown stepped up when needed down the stretch especially after the third quarter ejection of Marcus Smart. As previously said Brown had 9 of his 14 in the fourth to go with his 4 rebounds and 3 steals. Jaylen also buried this three which gave the Celtics a lead they would never give back to the Hawks.
With these two stepping up in the fourth we haven’t even be able to talk about the Celtics second leading scorer, Jayson Tatum. Tatum finished with 19 points on 7-13 shooting with 5 rebounds and 3 blocks while helping the Celtics stay in it early starting the game off right by turning some defense into offense.
The Celtics also recieved some much needed help off the bench from their leading rebounder on the night Terry Rozier. Yes Terry Rozier, the point guard, led the Celtics in rebounding. Terry struggled shooting, just 4-12 on the night, so he found a different way to impact the game with 11 rebounds. Despite the bad shooting he was still just 1 point away from a double double. Also Rozier may have also had the 2 loudest points on the night to start off a great fourth quarter for the Celtics.
The Celtis were also able to limit the damage by John Collins and Trae Young which I said would be the key to winning the game. Young and Collins still each had above average nights as Young had 16 points on 6-17 shooting with 7 assists while Collins had 15 points and 11 rebounnds. Like I said just make sure neither goes nuts scoring and they got the job done. Same thing with Kevin Huerter who had 18 points but on just 7-18 shooting. Alex Len did give them the boost off the bench they needed to keep it compeditive with 15 points and 6 rebounds for the big man but it wasn’t enough. The Celtics defense was able to hold their own limiting the Hawks to 43% shooting and just 29% from three point range. The Celtics were also able to force 20 turnover by the young Hawks team that included 10 steals by the Celtics. The Celtics also had 8 blocks to go along with the 10 steals. All this great defense and without Marcus Smart for most of the third and all the fourth quarter after he got ejected for getting into it with DeAndre Bembry.
This was a great win for the Celtics, the second game of a back to back on the road against a poor Atlanta squad and they still got the job done. Their reward was their third win in a row and now being able to go home for five straight games. The Garden has been very kind to the Celtics lately as they are 6-0 at home in 2019 with an average margin of victory of 16.2 points. For their next matchup the Celtics get to try and avenge a loss from last week on the road to Miami as they pay the Garden a visit for some MLK day basketball. If the Celtics can keep this home cooking going along with Kyrie and Al both cooking they should be able to get the win. Plus Gordon Hayward may potentially be back for Monday. With the win they are now 28-18 on the season but are still 6 back of the Raptors despie the three game win streak. Right now with the way the Raptors are playing the Celtics will need a good homestand to make up ground and realistically they should as they play only two teams above .500 and one is Brooklyn. The Warriors will be the real test on this homestand but at worst the Celts should be aiming for a 4-1 record for this homestand. But of course they need to focus on one game at a time so lets see if they can keep this home mojo going against Miami.
Also, remember to keep voting for all your favorite Celtics as we try and get them to this years All Star festivities. You know the drill, hit the link below and help make the city of Charlotte have a hint of green for All Star weekend.
Sources: Basketball-Reference.com, NBC Sports Boston