BOSTON – For so many games, the Boston played without any thought to the scoreboard.
No matter how big the deficit, no matter how deep into the game things got and they had to play from behind, there was never any question about their ability to fight back and compete and on many occasions, emerge victorious.
You saw that same fight and grit from the Celtics in the fourth quarter of Game 6, after having fallen behind by 28 points only to be within 95-83 with 3:16 remaining after a 3-point play by Isaiah Thomas.
Boston came within 10 points (96-86) with 1:48 to play, but quickly gave up a 3-point play at the other end that pretty much put the game away for the Hawks.
Throughout this series, the Atlanta Hawks proved themselves to be a different kind of opponent for Boston, a team that played a similar brand of basketball as the Celtics … only better and more experienced at it.
Those were just some of the factors that played a pivotal role in the Celtics never mustering up enough positive plays in a series that is now a thing of the past after Atlanta’s 104-92 Game 6 victory at the TD Garden.
Atlanta now moves on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Meanwhile the Celtics will have several months to ponder the usual “what if …” that teams whose season ends sooner than expected, think about.
What if Avery Bradley were healthy for more than three-plus quarters?
What if Kelly Olynyk’s sore right shoulder injury not flare up again in the series?
What if the Celtics had been pared against Miami or Charlotte instead of Atlanta following their four teams finishing in a tie?
For Boston, it was a night that in many ways symbolized what kind of series this has been for them.
Atlanta had a collective, across-the-board effort to keep the ball out of Isaiah Thomas’ hands as much as possible.
And more games than not, it worked.
He finished with 25 points on 9-for-24 shooting.
It meant other Celtics had to step up and contribute, something the Celtics did very little of throughout the series.
On Thursday, the Celtics got a nice lift from Jonas Jerebko who scored Boston’s first five points and helped Boston jump out to a 9-5 lead. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting.
But that would be as good as it got for the Celtics who eventually fell behind by nearly 30 points in what was the most important game of their season.
Every time the Celtics would make a play that got the crowd involved, Atlanta would counter with a basket of their own.
And when it came to the 50/50 hustle plays, Atlanta won that game as well.
As much as the series will be remembered for what the Hawks did defensively against Thomas, it will also be remembered for Boston’s inability to make the most basic basketball play – an open jumper.
But the Celtics made things mildly interesting in the third quarter when they cut Atlanta’s lead to 73-59 following a 3-point play by Marcus Smart.
The Hawks went on to score the final seven points of the third which included a buzzer-beating jumper by Al Horford that gave the Hawks a 21-point lead going into the fourth.
From there, the Hawks did just enough to get the win while sending the Celtics home for the season with a first round exit for the second year in a row.
First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves
Another night, another less-than-satisfactory start for Clay Buchholz. Since the end of their last homestand, the Red Sox are 6-2. Both of those losses were hung on Buchholz.
Buchholz wasn't horrendous - he did manage to pitch into the seventh inning and five runs in 6 1/3 isn't a shellacking.
But five runs to this Braves lineup is nothing to shout about, either, and Buchholz made matters worse by walking the No. 7 hitter -- Jace Peterson, who came into the game with a .205 average -- three times. Twice, Peterson came around to score.
In fact, the bottom third of the order was 3-for-7 with three walks.
Hanley Ramirez showed some progress at the plate.
Before the game, John Farrell noted that Ramirez had been expanding the zone of late, and working to correct the issue with hitting instructors Chili Davis and Victor Rodriguez.
Something apparently clicked, as Ramirez was 3-for-3 in his first three at-bats with two RBI.
The one thing that's been lacking for Ramirez: power. He came into the game with just one homer and a paltry .373 slugging percentage.
It wasn't much of a night for former Red Sox players.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski was 0-for-4, and for the second straight night, failed to catch a routine foul pop-up.
Meanwhile, reliever Alexi Ogando came in for the seventh inning and promptly allowed a leadoff single and a walk to the first two hitters he faced before recording two more outs and getting lifted for lefty Hunter Cervenka.
Turnabout is fair play for Chris Young.
Young got the start in left field over Brock Holt, despite the fact that Atlanta started a righthander (Jhoulys Chacin).
Young was 1-for-3 with a double, though that one hit came off lefty reliever Eric O'Flaherty.
Then, in the eighth inning with righthander Jim Johnson on the mound for the Braves, John Farrell sent Holt up to pinch-hit for Young.
That marked the first time that Holt hit for Young; to the great consternation of many, Young had been sent up to hit for Holt three times in the first week or so of the season.
By the way: Holt grounded out to end the inning.
It was assumed that Patrice Bergeron will be finalist for the Selke Trophy again this season, and it became official on Thursday when it was announced that Bergeron, Ryan Kesler and Anze Kopitar were the three finalists for the award given to the best defensive forward.
It would be the third straight Selke Trophy and fourth overall for Bergeron if he can take the hardware home again during the NHL Awards in June, and the ever-humble No. 37 said he was just honored to once again be nominated.
“Being named a finalist for the Selke Trophy is a tremendous honor and one I am very grateful for,” said Bergeron in a press release. “While it is an individual award, my teammates and coaches deserve a lot of credit as well. Ryan and Anze are two elite players who both had great seasons and it is a privilege to be a finalist alongside them. Thanks to all of those who voted and I look forward to the NHL Awards Show on June 22.”
The Bruins center has won the Selke Trophy three times (2012, 2014 and 2015) and has now been a Selke finalist in each of the last five seasons. His three wins are tied for the second-most in NHL history, one behind Hall of Fame Canadiens forward Bob Gainey, who is the all-time leader with four Selke Trophies. Bergeron was the Bruins’ lone representative at the All-Star Game this winter for the second straight season, and was a no-brainer as a finalist given all of his defensive qualifications.
Bergeron finished the 2015-16 regular season leading the NHL in faceoffs taken (1,978) and for the second straight season led the league in faceoffs won (1,130) while finishing a solid seventh overall with a 57.1% faceoff win rate among players taking a minimum of 500 draws.