ATLANTA – As disappointed as the Boston Celtics were in losing Game 1 on Saturday, there’s still time to salvage this series and achieve what they came for – to steal away home court advantage.
A victory tonight in Game 2 would do just that, although accomplishing that will be no small feat.
The Celtics must eliminate the up-and-down, helter-skelter brand of basketball they played in Game 1 which saw a wonderful stretch of play by the Green Team in the second half come on the heels of a woeful first half of play that ultimately put them in the kind of hole they couldn’t crawl their way out of completely.
“That’s the way we have to play to be successful,” Boston’s Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “But we can’t just do it for a half. That’s not going to be enough to get the job done.”
Especially against an Atlanta Hawks team which has been among the NBA’s top defensive clubs this season.
They rank high in several defensive categories which includes allowing opponents to shoot a league-low 43.2 percent from the field.
In Boston’s Game 1 loss, the Celtics connected on just 36.3 percent of their shots.
Improving on that won’t be easy for the Celtics, especially without their second-leading scorer Avery Bradley on the floor.
Bradley, who averaged a career-high 15.2 points per game this season, suffered a strained right hamstring injury that will keep him sidelined for Game 2 and in all likelihood the rest of this first round series.
Atlanta center Al Horford said Bradley’s injury won’t have any effect on the Hawks' approach to Game 2.
“We have to go out and do what we do,” Horford said. “It’s unfortunate about Avery. But we have to go out and play our game. We have to play our style.”
Offensively it’s taking advantage of a defense that quickly shifts to offense out of turnovers and missed shots. Atlanta’s style also involves forcing ball-handlers into where the help defense is established. In addition, the Hawks pack the paint and all but dare you to beat them with jumpers.
Boston got a number of open looks at the rim that simply didn’t go down for the Celtics.
According to NBA.com/stats, the Celtics shot just 17.4 percent from the field on “open” shots which they characterized as field goal attempts in which the nearest defender was 4-6 feet away.
They also broke it down into “open” 2-pointers and 3s with the Celtics ranking 16th (dead last) and 15th, respectively, among the 16 playoff teams.
That’s in part why despite looking at a 1-0 series deficit, the Celtics aren’t overly concerned about making too many changes.
Because after reviewing the game, the consensus among players is that Game 1 was them simply not making shots that they otherwise should have made.
So the Xs and Os aspect of the game seems to be in good shape. It’s now a matter of executing plays all the way through to the end which for Boston offensively, should equate to more baskets made.
And that would put them in great position to return to Boston for Game 3 on Friday with the one thing they came for – a victory that would swing home court advantage in their favor.