ATLANTA – It would be easy to point to Avery Bradley (right hamstring) not playing, or the less-than-stellar health most of Boston’s starters are playing with now.
But none of that mattered in Boston’s 89-72 Game 2 loss to Atlanta.
Sometimes the final score isn’t indicative of how the game was played.
This was not one of those games, as the Hawks dominated throughout the entire game, leading wire-to-wire as they move on to Boston with a commanding series lead.
The Hawks were faster, stronger, more aggressive, more assertive, more … just better in every sense of the word.
And Atlanta proved that in emphatic fashion with a win that has put the Celtics in the kind of hole that few teams ever fully climb their way out of in the playoffs.
Boston now finds itself trailing 2-0 in the best-of-seven series which shifts back to Boston with Game 3 being an absolute must-win matchup if the Celtics are to have any shot at winning this series.
Moving on to the next round is the furthest thing from the Celtics’ mind right now after Atlanta once again came out and delivered a hard, decisive punch to start the game that left the Celtics woozy afterwards.
Forget about winning the series.
How about a game?
Atlanta’s defense was so dominant, Boston only scored seven points in the first quarter which was the fewest points scored in the first quarter of a playoff game in NBA history.
The Celtics managed to get back into it and made it relatively competitive, but the Hawks made sure to not allow Boston to get any hopes of making a legit comeback as their lead remained in double digits most of the night.
While the absence of Bradley (right hamstring) was indeed a factor, Boston has bigger problems than not having their best on-the-ball defender available.
Boston’s offensive problems in large part stem from their inability to get into any kind of flow.
Celtics players are either looking to shoot too quickly, or not being assertive enough when the opportunity to score is there.
Time and time again, they passed up short, mid-range shots to attack the rim where Atlanta’s bigs were waiting.
And you have to figure that Kyle Korver, who was 1-for-10 in Game 1, was going to be a much bigger factor in Game 2.
That he was, finishing with 17 points which included a 5-for-6 3-point shooting display in the first half.
Korver’s shots could not have come at a better time with shooters for both teams struggling most of the night.
As for the Celtics, their best source of offense for most of the night was Amir Johnson who was making his presence felt at both ends of the floor with points at one end and blocked or altered shots at the other.
But just like there are nights when Isaiah Thomas could use some support offensively, that was true on Tuesday night with Johnson who finished with 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting to go with eight rebounds.
After Boston got down big, they just had too many stretches where they were just trading stops and shots.
In the third quarter, Celtics rookie Terry Rozier hit a 3-pointer which made it an 11-point game (55-44).
Moments later, the man Rozier was supposed to be guarding, Tim Hardaway Jr., did what his daddy did for years in NBA – drain big shots – as he hit a jumper that put the Hawks back up by 13 points.
It was that kind of game for Boston.
When they couldn’t make shots, neither could the Hawks.
And when shots started falling for the Green, they did so for Atlanta as well.
And by exchanging makes and misses, Boston was never able to make up any significant ground and thus found themselves right where they were after Game 1 – shaking their heads after another tough loss to Atlanta.