Late run not enough as C's fall to Hawks

745292.jpg

Late run not enough as C's fall to Hawks

ATLANTA The debate leading up to the Boston Celtics' and Atlanta Hawks' Game 1 matchup centered around the two R's: Rest and rhythm.

Boston chose rest down the stretch, while the Hawks opted more for rhythm.

Score one for rhythm as the Hawks were in a good flow all night in defeating the C's, 8374.

Boston spent the entire game playing catch-up, but were able to trim Atlanta's lead down to single digits in the fourth quarter after a jumper by Brandon Bass made it a 6759 game with more than nine minutes to play.

He would later hit another jumper that cut Atlanta's lead to 7368, only for Atlanta's Jeff Teague moments later to drill a 3-pointer that gave the Hawks a much-needed cushion of eight points with 3:05 to play.

The Celtics weren't out of it just yet, with Paul Pierce nailing a jumper that cut the Hawks' lead down to four with 1:01 to play, seemingly one defensive stop away from making things interesting.

And that's when all hell broke loose.

Atlanta's Joe Johnson lost control of the ball and a mad scramble ensued. Eventually, official Marc Davis called a personal foul on the Celtics with which all of them namely Rajon Rondo disagreed.

Rondo voiced his displeasure towards Marc Davis and then bumped into the back of Davis, which led to a double technical foul and an automatic ejection. It remains to be seen if the league will look to suspend Rondo for the contact he made with Davis.

Even before Rondo lost his composure, the Celtics were in trouble especially when it came to rebounding.

And the man giving them the biggest fits on the boards was Josh Smith. In addition to his 22 points and four assists, he also grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds.

The Hawks now lead the best-of-seven series 10 with Game 2 in Atlanta on Tuesday.

Atlanta began the game with a blistering 208 run and never looked back in handing the Big Three a rare Game 1 loss.

While much has been made of Boston's championship pedigree, they have a number of players experiencing their first real run through the playoffs this season . . . and for some, it certainly looked like it.

Avery Bradley, who has played with such poise and confidence for much of the season, appeared rattled early and often in the first half.

His on-the-ball pressure wasn't nearly as stifling as it has been this season, and he consistently came up short offensively by shooting just 3-for-10 in the first half.

Of Bradley's misses, none loomed as large as the wide-open 3-pointer, from the corner in front of the Celtics' bench, that was wide left as it grazed the rim.

After falling behind 4627, the C's scored eight of the game's next 10 points to come within 13 at 4835.

Bradley, who had just made a lay-up the previous possession, missed the wide open 3-pointer.

Moments later, Johnson was fouled and made one of two free throws, which would be the final point of the first half, which ended with the Celtics trailing 4935.

Keeping the Celtics in the game was Rondo, who, for a change, wasn't relying on his teammates to finish plays.

He was in scorer's mode, tallying 12 points at the half on 6-for-9 shooting. Rondo finished with 20 points, 11 assists and four steals.

The Celtics came out with a much more aggressive demeanor defensively, and slowly but surely cut into the Hawks lead.

A lob dunk by Bradley brought the Celtics within 5343 with 7:05 to play in the third.

The Celtics were not able to inch any closer in the third quarter, which ended with the Hawks ahead, 6553. And the run that carried them late into the fourth hit a wall with Rondo's ejection.

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – For most of his life, basketball has come easy to James Young.
 
So, the idea that in training camp he wasn’t just fighting to get playing time but also to stay in the NBA, was a jarring eye-opener.
 
To Young’s credit, he rose to the challenge and beat out R.J. Hunter for the Celtics' final roster spot.
 
And while Young’s playing time has been sporadic, he has done a much better job of maximizing his opportunities.
 
So, as the Celtics roll into Detroit to face the Pistons, Young finds himself playing his best basketball as a pro, good enough to make coach Brad Stevens not hesitate to put him in the game in the fourth quarter of a close matchup.
 
“It’s exciting to come back home,” Young, who grew up in nearby Rochester Hills, Mich., told CSNNE.com. “A lot of my family will be there. I’m not thinking about me. I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team.”
 
And lately, he’s getting an opportunity to do just that beyond being someone who helps in practice.
 
We saw that in the 107-97 loss at Toronto on Friday. Young came off the bench to play four minutes, 36 seconds in the fourth quarter with only two other Celtics reserves, Marcus Smart (8:39) and Jonas Jerebko (5:10) seeing more action down the stretch.
 
“It means a lot,” Young said. “He’s starting to trust me a little bit more. That’s a good thing. I’m just trying to do little things; rebound, get defensive stops and score when I get a chance.”
 
The fact that his scoring is just starting to take shape helps shed some light on why he has been buried so deep on the Celtics bench.
 
For his first couple seasons, Young seemed a hesitant shooter physically overwhelmed by opponents too strong for him to defend as well as too physical for him to limit their effectiveness.
 
But this season, he has done a better job at holding his own as a defender while making himself an available scoring option who can play off his teammates.
 
Young is averaging just 2.9 points per game this season, but he’s shooting a career-high 48.9 percent from the field and 41.7 percent on 3’s, which is also a career-high.
 
Getting on the floor more often has in many ways provided yet another boost of confidence to Young.
 
“I’m getting used to the flow of the game playing more consistently,” Young said. “I know what to do. It’s slowing up a little more and it’s getting easier.”
 

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

TORONTO – It’s far too soon to say if the Celtics’ decision to stand pat at the trade deadline was a mistake.
 
But the early returns aren’t encouraging.
 
Their 107-97 loss Friday night to the Toronto Raptors wasn’t because of Kyle Lowry (right wrist), who didn’t even play, or DeMar DeRozan, who played out his mind while scoring a career-high 43 points.
 
The game will be remembered by the new guys Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, both acquired at the trade deadline by the Raptors.
 
Ibaka, who was a bad fit, and on most nights a bad player, in Orlando, looked like the O-K-C Ibaka while scoring 15 points to go with seven rebounds against the Celtics – numbers that were better than his two games combined against the Celtics this season with the Magic when he scored a total of just 12 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
 
And then there was Tucker, who got a crash video course on Raptors playbook just hours before the game, and proceeded to show the kind of toughness at both ends of the floor that has made him one of the league’s more underrated defenders as he finished with a near double-double of nine points and 10 rebounds.
 
It was their first game with their new team, but you would have thought they had been with Toronto all season long with how seamless they seemed to fit in.
 
Ibaka draining jumpers, Tucker causing chaos defensively, while absolutely crushing the Celtics on the boards...their play was a painful reminder of what could have been for the Green team.
 
Both were rumored to have been in the Celtics’ crosshairs prior to the Thursday 3 p.m. trade deadline. The Celtics were lukewarm at best on Ibaka (they didn’t want what would have been a 25-game rental) and just couldn’t quite strike a deal and cross the finish line for Tucker.
 
It’s too soon to hit the panic button and rip Danny Ainge for not getting a minor deal done like adding Tucker or Ibaka.
 
Still, his players have to embrace the truth behind what transpired this trade season.
 
Ainge went big-game hunting, focusing most of the team's efforts on landing a major difference-maker, a la Jimmy Butler or Paul George.
 
When that didn’t work out, he settled for the next best thing, which was to keep this group together.
 
The onus is now on them to prove that trust Ainge has in them, was well-placed.
 
Putting too much stock in the first game after the break is a risky proposition that no one should subscribe to.
 
But in the loss, it revealed many of the concerns and weaknesses of this roster that tend to get magnified in defeat while glossed over when they manage to win despite those flaws.
 
Isaiah Thomas may be the best scorer in the fourth quarter, but he’s human.
 
There will be games when Mr. Fourth Quarter can’t get it done.
 
Friday night was that kind of game for him. He scored just four of his team-high 20 points in the fourth.
 
And as the Raptors blitzed him repeatedly with two and three defenders, his teammates failed to step up when the opportunity was there to make impactful, game-altering plays down the stretch.
 
Watching the Celtics’ defense in the second half was painful.
 
DeRozan got whatever he wanted, when he wanted it.
 
And when he missed, the Raptors controlled the boards, got all the 50/50 balls and repeatedly out-worked Boston.
 
It exposed Boston in a way that’s painful to see, especially when those inflicting the greatest amount of damage could have been in the Celtics huddle and not the one on the other sideline.