On Wednesday night the Celtics and Hawks faced off for the first meeting of two in three days. Both teams are a couple players away from being 100% but this still was an entertaining 122-114 win for Atlanta. The Hawks came in missing Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn, De’Andre Hunter, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Celtics have been missing Marcus Smart for a few games now but Daniel Theis was added to the list last game and now misses his second in a row. Kemba Walker did not play tonight due to not playing back to backs while taking his knee recovery slowly. The Celtics didn’t play a bad game tonight but it just wasn’t enough against Trae Young and company.
Jayson Tatum bounced back from rather low scoring outings the last two games with 35 points while pitching in six in the assists and rebound column. Jaylen Brown tallied 22 while the Celtics bench had 43. Both teams shot pretty efficiently from the field but the Hawks hit on 57.1% of their attempts tonight and you’re not going to win many games when you allow a team to shoot over 55%. There was no glaring factor for why the Hawks got the advantage because everything was close, but the difference was Atlanta’s 60-46 advantage in the paint. Much credit to Clint Capela and John Collins both pouring in at least 20 points but the star of the show was once again Ice Trae.
STAR OF THE GAME
Young put on an absolute show with his parking lot three point range and bevy of flashy but necessary passes. The ATL point guard became the second player in two games to drop at least 40 points in the Garden following Nikola Jokic‘s 43 point performance on Tuesday. Young was unstoppable in pick and rolls and when the Celtics went zone for a few possessions he showed he was just simply to poised for such defense. He hit four threes and shot a whopping 70% from the field (14-20) after not really having efficient games over the past 10. Young dished out eight assists but had just as many turnovers, basically being the only negative for him tonight.
Trae Young has also became very good at drawing fouls this season. Young most nights is the lightest player on the court in terms of weight so most bumps and hits will throw him off track, but learning how to sell them has helped him jump to number two in the league in free throw attempts per game (10.2) only trailing Joel Embiid. There have been multiple rumors of the Hawks not being in love with Young’s fellow teammate John Collins but him and Young definitely have excellent chemistry on the court. I would try my best to make things work with the 23 year old forward but if not the Hawks should get a worthy haul in exchange.
The Celtics defense falls again tonight after putting up a great performance only giving up 99 points to the Denver Nuggets. The Hawks 122 point night featured a lot of uncontested jumpers and shots right at the front of the rim. Boston gave up 60 points in the paint and fouled 27 times. The Celtics have had a major problem with playing defense without fouling this season, which has led them to giving up the eighth most free throw attempts per game to opponents.
Today the Hawks shot 31 free throws hitting 26 of them and about four calls against Young we’re called on the floor when he clearly was in the active shooting. The Celtics defense will never be as good as it can be until Smart comes back. Many NBA fans don’t think of Smart as an impact player but the Celtics struggles since his absence should be a dead giveaway on how important he is.
Cam Reddish was the only Hawks player other than Young, Capela, and Collins to score in double digits but even though his numbers are better, Kevin Huerter was really good tonight. Only tallying seven points is a few lower than his season average of 12 but he made every right play and had multiple hockey assists down the stretch. I did just disregard Reddish’s performance but he played well and it is evident that he learned and improved his game following a rocky rookie campaign. On the Celtics side of things Aaron Nesmith continues to pop on the screen with better than advertised athleticism and great rebounding instincts.
Brad Stevens knows he is a sniper from beyond the arch but Nesmith showing other facets of his game especially hustle really bodes well for his playing time. Robert Williams AKA Timelord continues to impress with his activity and uber athletic ability. Williams leads the team in blocks and has great pass perception skills. He showed that length and anticipation against Denver tallying 5 steals in 19 minutes. As long as he continues to play his game and get better with defensive positioning not just under the rim, he in my opinion should be starting by the end of the season if Stevens is willing to take the risk.
Vs. Atlanta Hawks, Friday, February 19 at 7:30 PM
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Nik is a longtime Celtics fan from Washington DC. NBA writing has always been one of his dream jobs and now he focuses on articles about the Celtics and rumor based news.