Celtics

Celtics-Hawks takeaways: Lackluster bench, 3-point shooting doom C's in loss

Celtics

The Atlanta Hawks have been nearly unbeatable at home (6-1) this season and the Boston Celtics were their latest victim Wednesday night.

The Celtics just didn't have enough firepower without Jaylen Brown and Rob Williams III as the high-scoring Hawks earned a 110-99 victory at State Farm Arena.

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 34 points, while John Collins paced the Hawks with 20. Atlanta had four players score 18-plus points.

NBA Power Rankings: Celtics still trying to catch up

The loss drops the C's record to 7-8. 

Next up for the Celtics is a much-anticipated matchup with the rival Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden on Friday night. It's the Lakers' only trip to Boston of the season.

Before we turn our attention to that game, here are three takeaways from Celtics-Hawks.

1) Where's the Celtics' bench?

The Celtics entered Wednesday averaging 26.6 points per game from their bench, which ranked 27th out of the league's 30 teams. Boston's reserves scored only 11 points against the Hawks, and all of them came from Josh Richardson. 

C's head coach Ime Udoka only played four guys -- Richardson, Enes Kanter, Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith -- off the bench until the late in the fourth quarter when the outcome had already been decided. Kanter, Langford and Nesmith were all scoreless on a combined 0-for-7 shooting.

The Hawks got 19 points (8-for-14 shooting) off the bench from 2019 first-round pick Cam Reddish. The Celtics have three first-round picks on their bench -- Nesmith, Langford and Payton Pritchard -- and none of them scored Wednesday night. Pritchard didn't play at all until the last two minutes of the game.

 

The Celtics have a strong starting five when Jaylen Brown is healthy and in the lineup. But they won't go very far without a bench that's capable of providing much-needed offense whenever Brown and Jayson Tatum are getting a rest.

2) Grant Williams making an impact

One of the most positive developments for the Celtics over the last week has been Williams' scoring production.

He put up a season-high 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting, along with five rebounds in 30 minutes. The third-year forward has now scored 10-plus points in three consecutive games for the first time in his career.

Williams is shooting 14-for-23 from the field over these last three games. The most encouraging aspect of Williams' improved shooting has been his 3-point accuracy. He's connected on nine of his 17 shots from beyond the arc during this span.

The Celtics, as noted above, have to get more scoring from their bench. Williams is likely to return to the bench when Brown comes back, and Boston will need him to continue his recent offensive surge in that role.

3) 3-point shooting woes

The Celtics shot a lackluster 11-for-42 (26.2 percent) from 3-point range, and it was one of the main reasons why they lost this game.

Outside shooting has been a problem for Boston throughout the season. The Celtics entered Wednesday ranked 25th in the league in 3-point shooting at 32.7 percent. It doesn't help that Tatum is shooting 31.6 percent on 3-point shots -- easily the worst rate of his career.

Two of the team's best available shooters, especially when Brown is out of the lineup, are Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard. Nesmith got just 11 minutes off the bench and went 0-for-2 from beyond the arc. Pritchard, as noted above, didn't see the court until garbage time. These two guys, who are former first-round draft picks, need to play a lot more minutes when the team is struggling to score.

The bottom line is the Celtics will need to add a shooter via trade at some point this season. They don't have enough quality 3-point shooters to beat the best teams on a consistent basis.