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The Boston Celtics head back to their home court with a 3-1 advantage for Game Five against the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday evening.
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The Celtics took their customary lead heading into halftime but were met with a response from the home team. Trae Young led that failed comeback effort and was once again enough of an offensive threat to cancel out his negative defensive impact, but the 12-point halftime hole was too deep to crawl out of.
Boston has been seemingly unbothered by Atlanta’s perimeter defense throughout the series. They have been able to create tons of open looks by driving the lane and collapsing the defense and kicking the ball out to shooters spotted up in the corners. Jayson Tatum and the rotation of point guards have also used their size to fend off Young and Dejounte Murray, which has also forced the help defenders to leave their primary covers open.
Atlanta has found more success since it adjusted its rotation and taken more threes but still does not live up to Boston on paper or by the eye test. They can play with them for stretches of the game but do not seem to have the consistency in ability or discipline to regularly outplay them for 48 minutes straight.
Tatum and Jaylen Brown both dropped 31 points and combined for 11 rebounds and seven assists. Marcus Smart (19 points) led four other players that also scored at least 13 points, and Al Horford, who did not score a single point, had a game-high +17 in plus/minus.
Young led the losing effort for the Hawks with 35 points (11-26 FG, 4-10 3PT) and 15 assists. De’Andre Hunter (27 points, seven rebounds) and Murray (23 points, nine rebounds, six assists) were also very productive.
Boston shot better from the field and from three than Atlanta and also secured seven more rebounds (49 to 42). This series is just a case of one team being better than the other and is likely going to end in the next couple of days.
The series is heading back to TD Garden, where the Celtics went a joint-Eastern Conference-best 32-9 during the regular season and are already 2-0 at in the postseason. The Hawks, meanwhile, were just 17-24 on the road during the regular season and lost Game One and Game Two by 13 points each.
The Boston faithful are shooting a whopping 42.2% from beyond the arc in the series, and not by chance either. They are getting great looks on practically every possession and have taken advantage of the defensive mismatches that exist, such as whoever Young is guarding or when Clint Capela gets switched onto one of Tatum or Brown.
Game Five should be more of the same for the home team: run in transition, drive the ball, collapse the defense, and find the open shooter. The Hawks’ response will be to get Young in space and let him pull up for three or create looks for his teammates, but he is literally and figuratively David taking on Goliath.
The Celtics are just a better basketball team than the Hawks. Ignore their higher skill set, better coaching, and surplus of options, their starters all seem to be taller, faster, and stronger than the players on the opposing side of the court.
All of that is to say that the Celtics are rightfully heavy favorites and will win if they just continue their standard practice. The physicality of their perimeter players has been too much for Atlanta and has been why they have had so many wide-open looks all over the court.
Never say never with the Hawks—they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago and have a perimeter scorer and creator (Young) that meets the criteria for success in the modern NBA.
Atlanta is going to have to find a way to cut off the three-point shot to have any shot of winning Game Five. They are also going to need to bury their long-range shots, and any help from the bench will be greatly appreciated.
The Celtics are favored by such a large amount and the Hawks are in the most desperate position in basketball, so there’s a strong chance that the latter pulls the cover but in a losing effort.
A loss would start an interesting period for the franchise. They have an intelligent coach in Quin Snyder that has a track record of getting teams with second-tier superstars into title relevance, but the word on the street is that the front office is looking to trade Young in the offseason.
Boston will move on to play the Philadelphia 76ers in the next round should they win the series.
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Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.
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