Celtics-Hawks review: What we saw


Celtics-Hawks review: What we saw

BOSTON For most of Boston's 90-84 overtime win in Game 3 against Atlanta, the Celtics did a good job of managing the clock.

But as their lead peaked at 11 points with just under seven minutes to play, the C's offense slowed down considerably as they appeared to be more focused on killing time off the clock than killing any hopes of an Atlanta comeback.

The Hawks managed to close out the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run that ultimately forced overtime.

"We got into the habit of milking the clock," Rivers said. "And you just can't do that. You can do that when the other team has two bigs. But when the other team has five guards on the floor, you absolutely can't do that. And we did that."

Consider it another lesson learned for the Celtics, who did a much better job of managing the clock in overtime.

"We got what we wanted (in overtime)," Rivers said.

The offense ran more smoothly, the defense was solid as ever and most important, the Celtics came away with a win that gives them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 on Sunday.

Boston's ability to better manage the game in the fourth quarter was yet another example of how the C's can adjust on the fly, which proved to be a key factor in Friday's win. Here are some other keys identified earlier, and how they actually played out as the Celtics continue their postseason mastery of the Hawks as the C's improved their record in the playoffs at home against the Hawks, to 23-2 since 1960.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: All eyes will be on Rajon Rondo, with many wondering how he will handle himself after being suspended in Game 2. This will be the fourth time Rondo has returned after missing time, whether it was injury-related or because of a suspension. In those three previous games, Rondo has returned to the floor doing essentially what he does most of the time - pass the ball. In those three games, he's averaging 11 assists which is just 0.7 assists fewer than his NBA-leading 11.7 assists per game average this season. "I'm a pass-first point guard," Rondo said. "It's not like I try to go out there and dominate the ball as far as shots. I try to keep my teammates happy, and get a win."
WHAT WE SAW: It seemed as the game went on, Rajon Rondo's play steadily improved. He finished with his seventh playoff triple-double, tallying 17 points, 12 assists and 14 rebounds. "He is certainly proven to be one of the better point guards in this league," said Hawks coach Larry Drew. Certainly he's a handful."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Joe Johnson: Pierce is coming off a monster 36-point, 14-rebound night in Game 2, the kind of performance that few expect the Captain to replicate. Of greater concern for Boston has to be the 44 minutes Pierce played, and whether a couple days off will be enough rest for him to bounce back and pick up where he left off. As for Johnson, look for him to be more assertive offensively regardless of whether Josh Smith (left knee) plays. A six-time all-star, Johnson has averaged 16.5 points and five assists in the first two games, while shooting just 31.3 percent from the field and 17.6 percent on 3s.
WHAT WE SAW: Although Johnson had more points (29 to 21 for Pierce), you have to give the nod to Pierce on this one. Yes, he was just 3-for-12 shooting which is a horrible shooting night for any paler. But Pierce also went to the free throw line 14 times and made all of his attempts. Meanwhile, Johnson's game-high 29 points came on 11-for-28 shooting which speaks to him having a not-so-efficient night as a scorer.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Teague has really emerged as a postseason terror for opponents. After two games, Teague has established himself as the best guard on the floor. His quickness off the dribble seems to have caught the Celtics off-guard in the first two games. However, the Celtics - Avery Bradley mainly - have figured out how to limit him down the stretch in both games. Figuring out how to keep Teague under control at the start of games, would go far in Boston pulling out a Game 3 win.
WHAT WE SAW: Joe Johnson may be their lone all-star that's healthy, but the Hawks made a major gaffe in trying to run their offense down the stretch through Johnson instead of letting Teague be the primary attacker. The Celtics have had problems defending him in all three games. And with Avery Bradley out for the entire fourth quarter, the Hawks would have been wise to make Teague - not Johnson - the focal point of their offense. He finished with 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field along with six assists, four rebounds, a steal and two blocked shots.

STAT TO TRACK: Bench play is always important, especially in this series. The Hawks won Game 1 in part because they outscored the Celtics' second unit, 17-2. In Boston's Game 2 win, the C's second unit had 14 points which equaled the output of the Hawks' reserves. Being able to hold their own offensively with Atlanta's backups will again be key in tonight's Game 3 matchup.
WHAT WE SAW: Bench play was indeed a factor, especially for the Celtics. The return of Ray Allen to the second unit did in fact provide a much-needed offensive lift for the Celtics. He had 13 of the Celtics' 19 bench points. As for the Hawks, Tracy McGrady had a big game off the bench with 12 points, 10 of which came before he suffered an ankle sprain that sidelined him temporarily.

Celtics nearly blow fourth quarter lead, hold on to beat Nets, 122-117


Celtics nearly blow fourth quarter lead, hold on to beat Nets, 122-117

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics are not used to being the hunted, or holding a comfortable lead over teams they should beat easily.

That inexperience nearly cost them their season opener against Brooklyn which rallied back from a 23-point deficit to within a field goal of tying the game in the final seconds of play.

But the Celtics managed to hold on for a 122-117 win.

For most of the game, it went according to the script many would have expected to see played out on the TD Garden floor.

Brooklyn put up a good fight, Boston got it together in the second half and the game is over.

Not so fast, says the Nets.

Head coach Brad Stevens tried to rest his starters in the fourth, but the Celtics’ second unit simply didn’t get it done as they nearly squandered a commanding fourth quarter lead.

It was somewhat fitting that they were on the floor to finish off the pesky Nets considering they were the main reasons why Brooklyn was in such a deep fourth quarter hole.

With the win, the Celtics are now 44-27 all-time in season openers and 32-13 at home.

Making the win even sweeter was the fact that because it was so decisive, it allowed head coach Brad Stevens to rest most of his core players who will return to the floor Thursday night to play the Chicago Bulls.

Celtics all-star guard Isaiah Thomas was in double-double range most of the second half before finishing with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

Boston also got a strong night from Jae Crowder who had 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting to go with four rebounds and two assists.

And while the numbers weren’t all that impressive, Al Horford delivered the kind of performance that speaks to his ability to impact the game positively for Boston in a multitude of ways.

He finished with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting to go with five rebounds and six assists in just 25 minutes of action.

Depth was a strength of the Boston Celtics last season, and it seems to be an even bigger weapon for them now.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens went 10-deep in the first half with each Celtic who stepped on the floor in the first two quarters scoring at least two points.

The Nets came in as heavy underdogs, a team that many anticipate will be among the worst in the NBA this season.

“We can’t worry about that stuff,” Brooklyn’s Trevor Booker told CSNNE.com prior to Wednesday’s game. “The big thing for us is to go out and compete, give ourselves a chance to be successful.”

Brooklyn did just that for most of the Wednesday’s game, but Boston’s talent and depth proved to be too much.

Crowder got things poppin’ at the start of the game by making his first four shots from the field.

But the Nets didn’t buckle, but instead got a multitude of players chipping in with a bucket here or defensive stop there to keep the game from getting out of hand.

Brooklyn’s Jeremy Lin, a former star at nearby Harvard, was among the Nets players keeping the game relatively close. He finished with 18 points.

But the second half was once again dominated early on by Crowder who scored in a variety of ways which included stealing an in-bounds pass and banking in a mid-range jumper in the third quarter.

That play was part of a 26-16 run by Boston to close out the third quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 97-81.

Brooklyn continued to play scrappy basketball in the fourth, but the Celtics had built up too big a cushion for the Nets to present any kind of real threat to Boston’s control.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics in control, but Nets within striking distance


Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics in control, but Nets within striking distance

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were in control most of the first half, but the Brooklyn Nets managed to stay within striking distance most of the first half which ended with the Celtics ahead, 64-58.

It was a high-scoring first half, the kind that one of the league’s top defenses shouldn’t experience.

But it is the first game of the season and the Celtics clearly have some kinks defensively to work out.

The Celtics led by as many as 13 points in the first half with contributions coming from several players in the starting unit as well as off the bench.

Boston has spent a good chunk of the preseason preaching the importance of good ball movement.

It was indeed on full display as Boston had 19 assists in the first half on 23 made baskets.

As for the Nets, Bogan Bogdanovic kept Brooklyn within striking distance most of the first half as he tallied 10 points through the first two quarters of play. Brooklyn also got a nice lift from Justin Hamilton who had 14 first-half points off the Brooklyn bench.

Here are our halftime Stars, Studs and Duds



Isaiah Thomas

Thomas was a more assertive player in the second quarter and it paid off for the him and the Celtics. He finished the half with a team-high 11 points in addition to doling out a game-high seven assists.

Jae Crowder

Boston displayed some crisp ball movement in the first half, and Crowder seemed to benefit from this more than any other Celtic. Through two quarters of play, Crowder has a team-high 10 points which included him making his first four shots from the floor.



Sean Kilpatrick

The Nets only have five players on their roster from last season’s disastrous 21-win club, and Kilpatrick showed why he’s one of the few holdovers. At the half, he had nine points off the bench to go with three rebounds.



Brook Lopez

He’s supposed to be the Nets’ best player, but you would not have known this by his play in the first half, The 7-foot Lopez was a non-factor through the first two quarters of lay, missing four of his five field goal attempts to go into the half with just three points.