Series Tied 1-1
Well, so much for Boston missing two of its best players.
In a playoff game without Ray Allen (ankle) and Rajon Rondo (served a one-game suspension), Paul Pierce and the Celtics found a way to put away the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2. Other than Celtics enthusiast Scott Duhaime, I don’t’ think anybody else saw this coming.
In my Game 2 Preview, I mentioned that Pierce would have to go for 30+ if the Celtics were to win without two of their stars. What I didn’t expect is that we would see retro Pierce, exploding for 36 points and 14 rebounds, and even pulling a Tim Tebow at mid-court during his 4th quarter heroics for good measure. The end result? Pierce carrying the Celtics to a victory.
How concerned should Atlanta be?
If Josh Smith’s knee injury is serious, I would say the Hawks are at a 9 out of 10 on the panic meter. He is the clear-cut matchup advantage the Hawks have over Boston, and the biggest culprit behind their Game 1 victory. Before his injury, he was having a decent game with 16 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists, and the Hawks were only down two at the time.
Beyond Smith, the Hawks had trouble getting into the same offensive groove they had in Game 1, thanks to a huge improvement in defensive intensity from the Celtics. With the two stars – Smith and Joe Johnson – struggling with their shooting and going 15-38 from the floor, the lack of production from the bench proved to be a huge letdown for Atlanta. Marvin Williams, in particular, contributed virtually nothing – scoring 3 points on 1-6 shooting in a very ineffective 21 minutes. Considering the bench played so poorly despite being at home, asking them to step up their play in Boston is a tall order.
What to expect in Game 3
The Hawks squandered a great opportunity to take a 2-0 series lead prior to heading to Boston for Games 3 and 4 without Rondo and Allen on the floor. Boston has been nearly unbeatable at home during the playoffs since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived in Boston in 2007-08, which epitomizes why the Hawks’ home court advantage was so crucial. And thanks to their loss of Game 2, and potentially Josh Smith, losing home court may prove to be the crushing blow to their hopes of advancing. Barring a miraculous healing of J-Smoove’s knee (we haven’t exactly seen such miracles in this year’s playoffs so far), Boston should win Game 3 in convincing fashion.