Prior to Friday’s Hawks-Celtics game, Boston center Kendrick Perkins said his team â€œput a hit outâ€ on Hawks guard Jamal Crawford, who had burned the Celtics for 18, 18, and 17 points off the bench in winning the teamsâ€™ first three meetings.
Instead it was Crawford who did all the hitting — in the paint, off the backboard, beyond the 3-point line, and even from halfcourt. He scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half to turn a nine-point deficit into a 12-point halftime lead, and the Hawks coasted the rest of the way to a 100-91 win — one that was unusually chippy for a regular season game but par for the course for a Hawks-Celtics tilt.
No, there will not be a ‘Big Ol’ Honkin’ LA-Boston Post’ when LA creams them tomorrow.That’s of no surprise, and I doubt it will be competitive.
But this one’s relevant for a few reasons, so let’s take a look.
Hmm… you know, we started with schadenfreude yesterday. We should go the other way. Okay, let’s talk Haw…
Oh, hello there, Mr. Schadenfreude!
Hi there, Matt! I’m here to remind you to always take joy in the misery of others before moving on to positive takeaways!
Thanks, Mr. Schadenfreude! I’ll be sure to do just that. Bye, Mr. Schadenfreude!
So let’s begin with Mr. Perkins.
There’s being confident that you’re the best team. And there’s confidence that you’re the best player. And then there’s confidence that you’re the ONLY good team with the ONLY good players, which is what the Celtics fall into. The attitude wasn’t one of respect, it was “we can’t get beat by that scrub again.” And they paid for it.Â And even if it was respect, you’ve got to keep your mouth shut to the media. You’ve lost three games to a team that’s on pace for a top four seed. You can’t just run your mouth. They’ve already done enough to earn some respect.
For the players in the Celticsâ€™ locker room, â€œIt means that they lost,â€™â€™ said Doc Rivers. â€œThey lost to the Atlanta Hawks. I donâ€™t think it means much more than that. Nobody wants to get swept, but I donâ€™t think you get to go to the second round when you sweep a team in the regular season. That I know of. You get to go to the next game.â€™â€™
But that’s not Boston. They won the title, even though they struggled through the first and second rounds, so therefore anything else that happens is invalid. Look at how they responded to Orlando, with the poodle comment. Now Orlando’s 2-1. At some point you need to recognize that you’re in trouble.
I still firmly believe that if the Celtics were to specifically gameplan and say, “we’re going to shutdown Crawford” they could. They’re great at gameplanning specific players. But they didn’t. They thought they could just outclass them, like they thought they could do to Orlando.
What’s worse is that this is endemic. There is a genuine lack of athleticism on the Celtics right now. It’s Rajon Rondo and a bunch of guys who are good at basketball but not athletic guys who are good at basketball. Which means when the Hawks buckle down and focus for long stretches, the Celtics look winded. Pierce was on fire last night, and still knocked down a big three, but he still looked flat-footed and winded.
Picking Up the Pace: The Hawks averaged a convincing 17.25 fast break points per game against the Celtics this season, while the Celtics lugged behind with asthma-filled lungs, posting just 12.75 fast break points per game. Slow and steady did not win this race. Usain Bolt would be proud.
There is, naturally, a refusal among the Celtics faithful to put this on age. If they do, well, that’s a wrap, kids. And they know that. Injury was the excuse, but now KG”s back. But I do think one injury still severely hampers this team. Marquis Daniels. Quis was capable of helping out with the Celtics’ weaknesses and would have also helped prevent something that’s killing them right now. Rasheed Wallace shooting.
Now for the Hawks, I feel like they’re going too far in the other direction. This win means a lot. No lie. It’s a big deal, proof that this team can say “If we face Boston in Round 2, we have a great shot at the ECF, and then who knows?” That’s a monumental shift.
But let’s not go licking our go-go boots just yet, okay? You It’s better to just represent “They’re a great team, we’re proud of this win, now we’ve got to keep it up.” Resting on laurels will also get you killed. And beating Orlando tonight or Cleveland at some point would also be advised, since right now, you’re hoping for a near-impossible matchup set.
- # The fourth quarter wasn’t much better outside of Joe Johnson suddenly remembering he was playing the Celtics and, thus, should start making every fall-away he could create for himself.
- 55 points on 38 shots and 12 free throw attempts for Johnson and Crawford. Considering the opposing post defenders, Horford and Smith got a suitable number of touches. A fine offensive performance from concept down to execution.
I’d like to give Bret a big ol’ handshake today. He ALMOST said something completely nice about a Joe Johnson ball-domination offense. I made this argument earlier in the season, and then wondered if I was wrong when the Hawks were struggling with him doing it more. So last night’s play wasn’t a validator, but it still fuels the debate: Joe Johnson’s ability to turn bad possessions into points is a good thing.
The Hawks offense ground to a halt early in the fourth. I mean, we’re talking “nothing doin'” territory. Josh Smith tried to be aggressive, but the Celtics were doing that weird “double-body” thing where they form a concave wall and manage to not foul (apparently), so he couldn’t get anything to fall. And then Johnson decided “You know what? That’s it.” And went all “08 playoffs” on ’em. And then Crawford came in and finished the job. And that’s just too much measured firepower for the Celtics to overcome after working that hard. There are going to be times when they’ll need Johnson to take games over. As good as Josh Smith has become in all phases, as good as the Hawks are as units at both ends of the floor, they need someone to create his own shot and kill the other team’s soul. And he drove a big ol’ dagger into Paul Pierce’s heart last night.
Maybe this is nothing, and there’s no continental shift happening. But Atlanta’s consistently winning with a core of guys who have played together for several years and who perform at both ends of the floor.
And the Celtics? Well, while the team won’t because of its unwavering confidence in itself based off the jewelry it won 19 months ago, the fanbase is rapidly approaching full-blown meltdown.