Initial Reaction: Celtics 102, Hawks 90

Groan.

Quick Thought: Smith and Horford rendered useless by Boston, wasting a terrific effort from Marvin Williams and Jeff Teague.

Summary:

You would think in a game where the Hawks moribund bench scored a whopping (44) points, and Marvin Williams chipping in a game high (26), that the Hawks were either:

A. Playing the Nuggets in 1990 

or B: in good position to win in Boston.

You would think the Hawks, with the aforementioned strong contributions from such surprising places, would indeed be in good shape to win but, after the last few minutes of the first half, and the first few of the second, I never really felt that way.

With the Hawks up 3 in the second quarter, with 4 minutes to go, Josh Powell hit a jump shot to put the Hawks up five. The Hawks followed up that possession with the following sequence of offensive results:

Marvin Williams charging

Josh Smith charging

Maurice Evans missed three pointer 

Josh Smith missed layup

Jordan Crawford turnover

Jordan Crawford missed three pointer

Josh Smith missed 17-footer

Josh Powell turnover

 

For the first three minutes of that sequence the Celtics went scoreless too, but in the last minute they hit three shots, scoring (6) points and taking a one point lead into the half.

As the Celtics started the second half, the Celtics ran plays for Ray Allen three straight times and the shooter delivered three straight baskets. The Hawks scored, too, but the efficiency in which the Celtics ran the offense would hum throughout the second half, ending the game above their seasonal game average in assists, despite the well-discussed absence of Rajon Rondo.

The Celtics jammed the ball down the Hawks throat, using motion to continually get their shooters good shots, and easy ops in the lane. The C's scored (50) points in the paint, and to underscore the Hawks lack of involvement defensively even with all that activity inside, they registered a mere two blocks.

While the Celtics mantra was obvious: Move the ball and get back on defense, it was far more difficult to get an understanding of what Larry Drew was dialing up for the Hawks. There was no focal point to the offense, and surprisingly little motion or ball movement considering the formidable half court defense of Boston. 

As good teams do, they return every shot and wait for you to make mistakes. The Hawks were -6 to the Celtics tonight in turnovers and the general chaos that looked to accompany their offense tonight paid few dividends as the game neared the end.  

Also:

Al Horford sat in the first half with (2) fouls. He sat (6) minutes between the third and fourth quarters. He played (26) minutes. He was 4-7 with (8) points and (7) rebounds. I would say I hope that he is loosened up when it comes playoff time, but you have to know better.

Josh Smith was terrible, even right from the start. He looked a step behind the whole game, just missing balls in the passing lanes, fading away on jump shots, and ultimately making nothing from the field on (8) shots. In (34) minutes he had (4) rebounds, underlining the lack of production Smith provided.

Marvin Williams and Jeff Teague, as mentioned above, were stellar. Marvin couldn't miss, hitting shot after shot and you have to appreciate his ability to get to the free throw line. (26) points, (5) rebounds on 9-15 shooting is a really good night.

It took Jamal Crawford to be hurt to finally see Jeff Teague play meaningful minutes (25) in a game. Teague, especially early on, made the most of them, scoring (18) point on 8-11 shooting and embarrassing Celtics first round pick Avery Bradley on successive possessions, during which Teague showed off his dunking skills. Later in the game, Teague would play a little out of control and turn the ball over, ending with a not-so-good ratio of 3:4 assist:turnovers, but showed enough playmaking ability to hopefully nudge Drew to play him more and see if he can smooth out those wrinkles on the court.

Silver Lining:

One tough game in a tough place but now the Hawks come home. Teague is a shiny silver lining tonight, and the Smith/Horford combo has to play better tomorrow.

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