The Boston Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks 112-99 in Game 1. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum led the way combining for 54 points. Derrick White had one of his better games this season, posting 24 points, seven assists, and five rebounds. Not to mention Robert Williams III provided a spark off the bench on both ends of the court with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Boston is gearing up for Game 2 of the series on Tuesday night, but also for a long playoff run. Before the Celtics achieve their main goal of winning a championship, they need to advance past the Atlanta Hawks. While no specific formula guarantees a win every game, here are three keys to winning this series for Boston.
Boston Celtics: Three Keys to Beating the Atlanta Hawks
Attacking the Glass
The series between the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks includes two top 10 rebounding teams this season. Atlanta posted 63 rebounds against the Miami Heat in the play-in game. Clint Capela was a major factor posting 21 rebounds in that game. Beating the Hawks will take Robert Williams III and Al Horford getting on the glass and boxing out.
The Celtics were able to dominate the glass in Game One, and that trend will need to continue throughout the series. Further, Boston won the rebounding battle 58-45 on Saturday. Additionally, they held Capela to only eight rebounds, and none of them came on the offensive end.
With how good of shooters the Atlanta Hawks have, the key is limiting second-chance points. Those second chances lead to kick outs and distribution to the perimeter for open threes. However, the Boston Celtics held the Hawks to half their 3P% at 17.2% from deep. On the season, the Atlanta Hawks shot just above 35% from beyond the arc.
Overall, it was a tale of two halves for the Boston Celtics in their first game in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Going into halftime, the Celtics held a 30-point advantage leading 74-44. This was due to Boston outrebounding the Hawks by 14 and their blazing start from three going 9/16 (56.3%). However, they lost the rebounding battle in the second half and were below 25% from outside the arc.
The first half of Game 1 is what needs to be replicated by the Celtics throughout the rest of the NBA Playoffs. Boston shot 60% from the field and previously mentioned 56.3% from three. Those numbers are unrealistic to repeat night in and night out, but that is the aim of a championship-contending team.
The problem for Boston Celtics in Game One was that they only scored 38 points in the second half. When playoff time rolls around, it’s time to play the best basketball of the year. Immediately after one of the best halves they played all season, they played one of their worst. Boston shot 34.9% from the field and 23.5% from three in the second half, which allowed the Hawks to win the final two quarters.
Consistency is a part of efficiency, which needs to be the same level of play throughout the game. Efficiency will be key if the Boston Celtics want to contend for a championship and beat teams like Milwaukee, Philidelphia, and Denver. The Atlanta Hawks seemed to figure it out in the second half and made a run at Boston.
The Celtics got a very efficient 12 points from Robert Williams III, who went 6/6 from the field. On the other hand, Malcolm Brogdon struggled offensively, going 1/4 from the field and only scoring five points. One of Boston’s major strength’s this season has been its depth, so players like Sam Hauser, Malcolm Brogdon, and Payton Pritchard need to step up when called on. Bench points are not the stat to look for in the box score. It is how efficient the bench was at scoring.
Taking Care of the Basketball
The same problem the Celtics had last year popped up again in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Boston turned the ball over 353 times last year in the playoffs, which led all playoff teams. Although the total number is skewed due to the number of games, the Boston Celtics had over 30 more turnovers than Golden State. In addition, the two players who turned the ball over the most were Jayson Tatum(100) and Jaylen Brown(74).
In the first game of the playoffs, Jaylen Brown turned over the ball six times. Additionally, the Boston Celtics turned the ball over 16 times as a team, which was five more than their opponents. The worst part is that turnovers were not a problem during the regular season. Boston was the seventh-best in the NBA in terms of turnovers per game. Giving the ball away could cost Boston games and possibly a series.
Overall, Boston needs to limit turnovers to keep winning playoff games. Game One was an average regular season-type performance from the Boston Celtics. A sense of urgency and killer instinct needs to be present for all 48 minutes. Getting the win was the most important, but there is a lot of room to grow and improve. The Boston Celtics will take on the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday at 6:00 CT for Game Two at the TD Garden.