And you thought things couldn’t get any worse. The Celtics continue to plummet down the standings, as they suffered a 127-112 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The game wasn’t nearly as close as the score makes it seem, as the Hawks controlled this game for pretty much the entirety of the contest. Jaylen Brown led all Celtics scorers with 17 points, which isn’t saying much. Seven Celtics ended in double figures, which was basically just a product of the bench getting a ton of playing time in the second half due to the lopsided nature of the contest.
Despite the Hawks dominating the game, the Celtics were able to keep this game somewhat respectable through the first quarter. They faced a 28-18 deficit early on, but quickly brought it back to a one possession game, with a 30-27 score. Over the next five minutes the Hawks proceeded to go a 20-0 run, and that was pretty much the game. The Celtics never looked like they intended to make this a contest, as they labored through the rest of the game on both sides of the court.
The defensive effort was lacking throughout the entire game. The Hawks dropped 40 points in the first quarter, and never really slowed down. They hit 23 threes as a team, 10 of which came from Danilo Gallinari, who dropped 38 points off the bench. For comparison’s sake, the Celtics hit eight threes as a team throughout the entire contest. Trae Young also chipped in 33 points of his own, doing most of his damage early in the game. The Celtics just made it way to easy for the Hawks to get good shots, and Gallinari and Young took full advantage of that.
Offensively, things weren’t much better for the C’s. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for only 30 points, with Tatum in particular laboring through a 4/20 shooting performance. Brown wasn’t much better, as he shot 6/16 to put up just 17 points. As we’ve come to see, if Tatum and Brown don’t play up to par, things could get ugly, and boy did they ever tonight. Too often the Celtics seem to resort to strictly isolation plays, which just kills their offense. When they pass the ball around and are able to score off assists, the offense functions so much better, but that just wasn’t the case in this one.
So the Celtics three game road trip resulted in three demoralizing losses, and this team is on verge of collapsing. The Celtics effort on both sides of the ball is just nowhere to be found, and they need to step it up, and soon. A trade of some sort would certainly be welcome, but it won’t mean anything if the core of players currently on the roster can’t figure it out now. Somebody needs to step up and take charge of the situation before it gets out of control, whether it be GM Danny Ainge, coach Brad Stevens, or even some of the players. It needs to happen soon though, because the Celtics just shouldn’t be getting handed losses like this by a team like the Hawks.
If there is a silver lining to take away from this game, its that the bench players made certain to take advantage of the extra minutes. Aaron Nesmith is finally looking like he’s getting acclimated to the NBA level of play, as he had another solid performance tonight. He shot 5/7, including 3/4 from three, and continued to play with his normal brand of high intensity defense in this one. Carsen Edwards and Tremont Waters both dropped 11 points in limited action, with Waters hitting all four of his shots. It’s nice to see in games that aren’t close, but it’s important to transition these performances to close games where it actually matters.
Things won’t get any easier for the Celtics unfortunately, as they return home for a matchup with the Indiana Pacers on Friday. The duo of Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon will certainly present a tough challenge for a reeling Celtics squad, and slowing them down could be the key to getting back into the win column. Kemba Walker will rejoin the team for this game, and hopefully he’s able to provide a boost to the Celtics that will help them get back into the win column. If the Celtics are unable to pick up a win soon, an already ugly situation could get even uglier.
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