BOSTON – Less than five minutes into Game 3 between Boston and Atlanta, the Celtics found themselves in unfamiliar territory – ahead with a double-digit lead.
The Hawks eventually cut into Boston’s lead, but the Celtics were too strong at the start of the game to blow this one.
Despite Atlanta’s second half surge, the Celtics were able to pull out a 111-103 win over the Hawks.
Atlanta now has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 in Boston on Sunday.
At the end of the first quarter, the Celtics had a commanding 37-20 lead which was similar to what the Hawks did to the Celtics in Games 1 and 2 in Atlanta.
“They had a heck of a first quarter,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer. “They made a lot of plays, big shots. It’s hard to come back when you are down 17 in a quarter.”
The Celtics know this all too well after falling behind big in the first quarter of Games 1 and 2 that ultimately proved to be their downfall.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was pleased with his team’s start, but was admittedly concerned that they would wear down quicker than usual.
“For any of you that have ever run the mile, you run the first lap, breakneck speed, and then about the third lap, it just feels like you’re never going to make the last two laps. I thought we were starting to wear down, obviously, after we took that 19-point lead.”
But that was soon followed by one big shot after another.
And down the stretch, the Celtics got clutch plays at both ends of the floor to get their first win in the series.
“We just have to build on this,” said Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Game 3 of the Boston-Atlanta series.
The Celtics needed their leading scorer to deliver a big game, and did he ever. Thomas had a career-high 42 points (regular season and playoffs) on 12-for-24 shooting from the field.
His first start as a Celtic was certainly memorable as he tallied a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds to go with four assists. Even more telling is the fact that the Celtics were +14 – best among any player in Game 3 – when he was on the floor.
Teague’s quickness was once again a challenge for Boston, although they did a much better job in Game 3. He had a team-high 23 points but managed to tally almost as many turnovers (4) as assists (5).
Like Teague, Schroder’s speed was a problem most of the game for the Celtics. A game-time decision due to an ankle injury in Game 2, Schroder had 20 points off the Atlanta bench.
His defense remains solid, but Crowder’s shooting continues to be a problem. He was 1-for-11 in Game 3, with many of his misses being wide open, uncontested shots. That’s not likely to change in Game 4, especially when you consider Crowder is now shooting 19.4 percent (7-for-36) from the field.