The Boston Celtics certainly didn’t have the kind of finish they wanted in losing 118-107 to the Atlanta Hawks.
But just as disturbing as the start of the game in which the Celtics, defensively speaking, were bad for the second straight game.
“It may have been a case of guys just making a ton of shots,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters afterwards. “There were a few transition plays, especially early, that were poor on our part and set a tough tone. To know that we had a 34-point first quarter today and 35 yesterday … we have to start the first quarter defending better than we have the last two nights.”
It’s a bit surprising to see the Celtics get lit up the last couple of games in the first quarter.
Boston came into Saturday’s game giving up 24.6 points in the first, which ranked 6th in the NBA for fewest points allowed in the quarter. And in facing Milwaukee on Friday and the Hawks on Saturday, Boston faced a pair of teams that rank in the bottom half of the league in first-quarter points scored with Atlanta averaging 24.6 points in the first which is in the bottom-10 (No. 23 in the NBA).
The three-time All-Star took over in the second half, and the Celtics were seemingly helpless. He scored in just about every way imaginable, and it didn’t matter what the Celtics defense did to try and stop him. He finished with a double-double of 31 points and 16 rebounds.
The struggles that have plagued him for weeks were a thing of the past on Saturday. Smart finished with a team-high 19 points, which included a solid 4-for-6 shooting on 3s.
For large chunks of the first half, Bazemore was extremely active at both ends of the floor, which led to easy scores and plays that kept the crowd engaged. Bazemore tallied 21 points along with five rebounds and three assists.
Most of his strong play of late hasn’t shown up in the stats sheet, but Saturday was an exception. His defense, ability to run the floor and overall impact was undeniable. He had 14 points to go with eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
Hawks point guard play
Jeff Teague and his backup Dennis Schroder delivered the kind of 1-2 punch in the backcourt that Boston could not contend with for any extended period of time. They combined for 39 points on 15-for-27 shooting.
He finished with 16 points, but it was easily one of his worst games in recent weeks. It wasn’t the fact that he was 6-for-19 shooting from the field. More than that, he struggled mightily on the defensive end of the floor. And when he wasn’t scoring, he wasn’t getting others in the best spots to score which was rare to see him come up short on both of those fronts.