Five takeaways from Celtics' win over Hawks
Five takeaways from Celtics' win over Hawks: Rare win in Atlanta
ATLANTA – The locker room following the Celtics’ thrilling 103-101 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night had a bit more jubilance about it than most victories.
Emerging victorious in ex-Hawk Al Horford’s first return to Atlanta had something to do with that.
Just as significant was the fact that wins in Philips Arena have been few and far between for Boston in the Brad Stevens era.
In fact, the Celtics came in having lost seven of the eight games under Stevens in Atlanta, which includes losing all three road games to the Hawks in the playoffs last season.
“It feels good to get a win here,” said Jae Crowder.
Here are five takeaways from Friday’s game:
MR. INTANGIBLE, MARCUS SMART
Lately, Marcus Smart has shot the ball better from the floor. But we all know that on any given night, he’ll have a game where he’ll miss 10 or more shots and shoot a woeful percentage. He had one of those games against the Hawks (nine points, 2-for-13 shooting), but still managed to make a bunch of effort plays to help Boston emerge victorious like the how-did-he-do-that? put-back basket of an Isaiah Thomas miss in the third quarter. Smart also had four assists and four steals which was more than the rest of the Celtics (3) had combined.
LIVE BY THE 3...
We all know how smitten the Celtics are with 3-pointers. Well that love for the long ball was on full display Friday night as they took a season-high 44 three-pointers with 17 makes. The Hawks game was indicative of the ups and downs that come about when you rely so heavily on the 3-point shot. It was instrumental in them pulling ahead by 15 points in the first quarter, but when they went cold it allowed Atlanta to cover a lot of terrain in a short amount of time on their second half near-comeback.
CELTICS’ BALL MOVEMENT
This has been one of the Celtics’ strengths all season, evident by them averaging 24.9 assists per game which ranks fourth in the NBA. More telling is their assist percentage which was 61.1 percent (22 assists on 36 made baskets) against the Hawks. That figure is close to their season average (64.1 percent) which ranks second in the league to Golden State (71.5 percent). It also speaks to how despite Isaiah Thomas’ eye-popping numbers and ability to create his own shot, Boston’s ability to not allow the ball to stick on one side of the floor or in the hands of one player, has allowed them to have a potent offense that ranks among the best in the NBA this season.
OLYNYK’S DUAL-THREAT POTENTIAL
There may not be a more polarizing player on the roster than Kelly Olynyk, a 7-footer with a sweet stroke who far too often treats the paint like the Zika virus. But against the Hawks on Friday, Olynyk delivered the goods at both ends of the floor. He finished with a season-high 26 points on 9-for-11 shooting with five of his nine made baskets being lay-ups or put-backs at the rim. Being able to knock down the 3-ball (he was 4-for-5 from long range) as well as finish around the basket makes him an extremely difficult cover if he can ever get to a point where his overall skillset is on display more consistently.
THOMAS THE CLOSER
To witness Isaiah Thomas’ late-game heroics is almost to the point where when he doesn’t make a big shot in the fourth quarter, you’re shocked. He’s playing with a level of late-game confidence that you just don’t find often, even among the game’s elite players. He respects the hell out of Brad Stevens and his knowledge of X’s and O’s. But as much trust as he has in Stevens, he trusts his instincts even more. And he should because more often than not, they’re right. The way he’s going, Thomas has emerged as more than just a good player for the Celtics who can do a little somethin’ somethin’ in the fourth quarter. He’s a bona fide stud in the clutch who has one hurdle of significance left to cement his place among the game’s best – do it in the playoffs.