Hawks' Millsap has given Celtics trouble this season
By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON – No one said this postseason journey was going to be easy for the Boston Celtics.
But considering the potential first-round foes they could have faced in the final weeks of the season, starting off on the road against the Atlanta Hawks is probably as difficult an opening round matchup as they could have drawn.
The Celtics saw first-hand during the season how difficult it can be to knock off the Hawks, who won three of their four regular season meetings.
Here’s a recap of each of those games:
Nov. 13, 2015: BOSTON 106, Atlanta 93
The Celtics got a monster game from Amir Johnson (19 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots) while Isaiah Thomas chipped in with 23 points and 10 assists.
Atlanta’s Paul Millsap was limited to just 14 points with all but four coming in the first quarter. The Hawks were also without their head coach Mike Budenholzer who left Boston to return to Atlanta due to a family emergency. Hawks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson filled in for Budenholzer.
Nov. 24, 2015: ATLANTA 121, Boston 97
The Hawks came with an edge about them having lost four of their previous five games, and soon went about slicing and dicing up the Celtics defense.
Even Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was a little testier than normal, having been fined $25,000 prior to the game following a bumping incident with official Ben Taylor – the same official who whistled Isaiah Thomas for a technical foul in Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat.
Leading the way for Atlanta was Paul Millsap who had 25 points. The Celtics were being carried by Avery Bradley who also had 25 points, 15 of which came in the first half.
Dec. 18, 2015: Atlanta 109, BOSTON 101
Once again it was Paul Millsap to the rescue, scoring 15 of his 20 points in the decisive fourth quarter. Atlanta’s Al Horford was a problem for Boston’s defense as well, tallying a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds.
This game was ultimately decided by Atlanta’s dominance around the rim, outscoring the Celtics 68-36 on points in the paint.
Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 29 points but had almost as many assists (6) as turnovers (5).
April 9, 2016: ATLANTA 118, Boston 107
The Celtics led at the half, but couldn’t sustain their solid play in the third and fourth quarters. Atlanta’s defense really tightened up with Boston tallying just 36 points in the second half after scoring 32 and 39 in the first and second quarters, respectively. The Hawks defense was impressive in the second half, as was the play of Paul Millsap who finished with a season-high 31 points to go with 16 rebounds in helping Atlanta pull away for its third win in four games against the Celtics this season.