Celtics Hand Short-Handed Hawks Another Loss

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
By Robby Kalland

Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics

The Hawks (26-31) held an early 15-point lead, but — like last night — the Hawks let that lead slip away quickly as the Celtics (20-39) followed Rajon Rondo and Jerryd Bayless to a 115-104 victory.

Hawks vs. Celtics
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For the second straight night, the Hawks jumped out to a big lead in the first quarter behind a hot shooting start from Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll, but the Celtics closed the first strong to cut the Hawks lead to 27-25. Rondo led the charge for the Celtics’ early comeback with 11 first quarter points, and Bayless took over the scoring role in the second quarter with eight as the Celtics took a 58-56 halftime lead.

The Hawks took a brief one-point lead early in the third quarter, but they were never able to get enough defensive stops to take or hold onto the lead. The Celtics’ offense on their initial possessions wasn’t particularly special, shooting 47.8% (36.4% from three) on the game, but Boston collected 14 offensive rebounds to help extend some possessions and converted 18 Atlanta turnovers into 27 points.

The Hawks were forced to experiment with their lineups quite a bit being on a back-to-back, and when they went small – and I mean small with Carroll playing the five and Cartier Martin playing the four at times — they just couldn’t handle the size of the Celtics. Boston was missing plenty of their own players with Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk both being out with injury, but Brandon BassJeff Green, and Gerald Wallace proved to be too much for the Hawks to handle on the glass as the Celtics held a 46-29 advantage on the boards.

Jeff Teague played well for the Hawks with 26 points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. In the third quarter, Teague dominated by getting Boston’s bigs to switch onto him on pick-and-rolls and isolating them for drives to the basket. With Teague on the floor, the Hawks had a better offensive flow and played with direction and purpose as opposed to when other guard combos were together.

Defensively, the Hawks perimeter defense was not where it needed to be as Rondo — 22 points and 11 rebounds — was able to penetrate and either score or pass out to shooters or cutters when the defense collapsed. Bayless had a game-high 29 points including five made threes as he caught fire in the second half. Bayless got some open looks in the third quarter that got his confidence up and from there the Hawks couldn’t contain him even when contesting his jumper.

Carroll had a big first half with 17 points and finished the game with 24 points and seven rebounds. Carroll — playing out of position much of the night — put forth a very good effort defensively even when defending bigger players and used his quickness to take advantage of slower defenders on the offensive end.

Elton Brand put forth another great effort in 34 minutes of play with 10 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and five blocks. Brand — who played 42 minutes last night — started to show some fatigue in the second half, but battled throughout and did a great job protecting the rim.

Korver was hot shooting from the outside going 4-for-5 from three and finished with 17 points as he extended his three-point streak to 126 consecutive games.

The Hawks bench — short as it is — struggled in the game. Mike Scott — who has been tremendous all season — was held scoreless on six shot attempts, and had just one rebound and one assist in 17 minutes. Dennis Schröder had four points and three rebounds in 17 minutes and Lou Williams had 13 points, four assists, and three rebounds in 32 minutes, but both finished at a -14. Whenever the Hawks went to their bench unit without Teague and/or Brand, the defensive lapses were more prevalent and the offense would begin to stall a bit.

Without healthy bigs, the Hawks defense has just not been able to put forth a consistent effort to prevent teams from attacking the rim or keep them off the offensive glass. The Hawks will have three days off prior to their west coast road trip that begins in Phoenix on Sunday. In that time, Atlanta will hope to have a few of their injured players back before they try to go out west and get back in the win column.

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Photo by Steve babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

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