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The Boston Celtics take a commanding 2-0 lead on the road to face the Atlanta Hawks and struggling point guard Trae Young in what is almost certainly a must-win game.
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The Celtics staged a familiar sight and took a lopsided lead into halftime in Game Two, much like they did in Game One. They also once again coasted to the finish line with a relaxed second-half performance and were still able to win by double-digits, giving them two wins both by 13 points in the series.
The Celtics’ offense has been functioning at an all-time high thus far. The Hawks are simply unable to match up with their players because of defensive mismatches involving Trae Young and Clint Capela. Young is too small and light to stay in front of Boston’s taller and longer perimeter players, and Capela is an old-school big that would rather be under the basket than following Al Horford into the corner.
It’s unfair to call a series before the underdog has even been given a chance to respond at home, but this series appears to be too large of a mismatch for the Hawks to even remain competitive. It would be a surprise if they could extend it to six or seven games, and a sweep appears more likely, given the first two performances than either of those outcomes.
Dejounte Murray led the losing effort for the Hawks with 29 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Notably, he played 40 minutes to just 34 for Young, and it’s not as if the latter was in foul trouble—he had zero fouls but was left on the bench because of his overall ineffectiveness. The box score plus/minus is proof of that since Young was a -18 and Murray was an even zero.
Even more puzzlingly, two of the Hawks’ other three starters (De’Andre Hunter and John Collins) also had positive plus/minus scores. The bench was horrible, but it still gives more credence to Young being a problem for the starting unit.
It’s hard to find any issues with the Celtics’ Game Two performance. Jayson Tatum (29) and Derrick White (26) led the scoring column, and Tatum also had 10 rebounds and six assists. Three other players scored at least 13 points and the team shot nearly 56% from the floor and 46% from beyond the arc.
Atlanta is going to have to come up with a new formula to slow down the Celtics’ offense if they want to have any hope of winning this series—or even a game. The solution to that seems to be playing longer wings like Collins and Hunter heavier minutes and also switching them but keeping Young and the smaller guards stationed on their primary matchup.
Boston has mostly run a five-out system that puts all five guys on the perimeter and creates driving lanes which they then pass out of once they have collapsed. They have the benefit of having shooters at every position and can also reliably tap into their bench more than the Hawks can, and that’s with Grant Williams and Blake Griffin not even managing to get onto the court in Game Two.
Expect more of the same from the Celtics’ standpoint. There is a lot of pressure on Young to step up his game back in his home arena for what could potentially be the final two games of his Hawks career if the rumors are true that the Hawks’ management greenlighted a trade this summer.
The Hawks will win this game if they get excellent defensive performances from their wings stationed on Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They also need to nail three-point shots that are so integral to coach Quin Snyder’s offensive ethos, and that starts with Young.
The Celtics win by changing nothing at all. They have been the better team in every respect and seem capable of winning this series without ever getting out of second gear. They will probably face more resistance in Game Three than they have at any point in the series, but their road record (25-16) was better than the Hawks’ home record (24-17) during the regular season.
It’s easy to imagine the Hawks putting up a strong fight knowing their season is on the line, but the Celtics’ spread of just -5 after two 13-point wins is too much to pass up. Jaylen Brown was also hiding in the periphery in Game Two and is primed for an explosive scoring night in the ATL Friday.
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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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