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The Atlanta Hawks head back to Georgia to face the Boston Celtics after a late game-winning three from Trae Young Tuesday brought them to a 3-2 deficit in the series.
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The Hawks came out firing in Game Five and ended the first 12 minutes with their first first-quarter lead of the series. They gave it all away and went into halftime down eight points and trailed by as many as 13 points with just over six minutes left before ripping off a 15-2 run capped off by Young’s decisive three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left.
The loss shockingly marked the first time in Celtics franchise history that they threw away a double-digit fourth-quarter lead, but the fourth quarter was just an encapsulation of what troubled them throughout the game. Boston came out with confidence that went beyond the pale and resembled cockiness and entitlement and was totally outworked by the Hawks.
The Hawks were only 17-24 on the road in the regular season, and the Celtics tied for the Eastern Conference-best home record at 32-9. Even though Young was inefficient, his relentlessness with the basketball was enough to keep his team in contact and eventually make the comeback.
Young led all scorers with 38 points on 14-33 shooting (5-13 3PT), and he also had 13 assists. He and his teammates combined to sink 19 three-pointers, their most in a single game in the series, and made 46.3% of their attempts, also a series best. Dejounte Murray missed the game through suspension after he seemed to purposefully bump into a referee in Game Four.
Jaylen Brown was excellent for the Celtics; he scored 23 points in the first half and finished with 35 (15-23 FG, 4-7 3PT), seven rebounds, and five assists. Jayson Tatum, the usual alpha, could only muster 19 points on 8-21 shooting (1-11 3PT). Boston has found success from beyond the arc all series long but was limited to just 31.6% shooting after being up at 42.2% in the four games prior.
The Celtics still look like the better team on paper, but the Hawks played a style that behooves them more and showed they can win tough games. It seems like a distant memory, but this team did make the conference finals just a couple of seasons ago and is one home win away from picking up as much momentum as it’s had all year.
The Hawks appear to have seen the light when it comes to three-point shooting, not just in terms of efficiency but simply volume. Celtics coach Joe Mazulla, ironically, has referenced the importance of math several times. Since three points are worth more than two, teams that can make a decent chunk of their long-range shots have a better chance of winning than teams that don’t.
Hawks coach Quin Snyder also helped pioneer the three-point revolution in basketball with his previous Utah Jazz teams that attempted as many triples as anybody in the league. It can be expected that the Hawks will continue to be aggressive letting the ball fly whenever they have enough breathing space, given their success in Game Four.
Boston does not necessarily need to win in Game Six but really does not want to give up a 3-1 lead and head back to TD Garden for a Game Seven. Aside from the obvious peril, it also gives Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers, who have already advanced to the next round, more time to rest and game plan.
The Hawks will win Game Six if they come out with intent and show that their effort and execution weren’t flukes. They will probably have to make close to if not more than 40% of their three to hold up offensively and also need to duplicate their defensive effort from Game Five.
The Celtics will win Game Six if they get Tatum and Brown going at the same time and play their usual brand of ball. They are so talented, deep, and versatile that no major adjustments are needed, Mazulla just needs to be more reactionary during the game. He failed to switch his defensive approach during the Hawks’ late comeback win and was culpable in the loss.
The Hawks have made this series a lot more interesting than it probably should have been, and all credit goes to them. The Celtics, however, are clearly the superior basketball team and will be just fine if Tatum doesn’t shoot worse than 40% from the field again. Trust the Celtics to get the job done and also cover the spread on the road to avoid the embarrassment of a Game Seven.
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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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