Celtics Rely On Next Man Up Sans Bradley
After leading by as many as 19 points, the Hawks held off a Celtics rally to secure a one-point win and maintain home-court advantage in the series. Boston not only lost the game, but may have lost Avery Bradley for the series due to a hamstring injury.
Atlanta held Boston to 23.1 percent shooting in the first half and got the stops it needed down the stretch after squandering the lead. The Hawks were the more aggressive team throughout most of the contest and outscored Boston 52-36 in the paint and attempted 16 more free throws. Hawks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson was named head coach of the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday but will stay with Atlanta throughout the playoffs.
Boston completed its comeback and took an 83-80 lead with 6:48 remaining on Saturday but had Bradley go down seven seconds later on the way back up the court. Bradley suffered a strained hamstring, leaving his availability for Game 2 (and the entire rest of the series) questionable. Bradley had the primary assignment of covering the Hawks’ starting guards, allowing just 4 points between the two of them. Atlanta’s Jeff Teague ended with 23 points and 12 assists in the game, with 9 of those points coming in the final minutes without Bradley on the floor. Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas led the team with 27 points and eight assists in Game 1. Atlanta SF Kent Bazemore recorded a playoff career-high 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
The absence of Bradley as a lockdown defender could open the floor even more for Atlanta guard Jeff Teague. Teague sealed the Game 1 win at the free-throw line and formed a potent pick-and-roll combination with center Al Horford.
Horford was a dominating paint presence for the Hawks in Saturday night’s game, ending the game with 24 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. On the defensive end, Horford proved to be very effective defending the basket, as the Celtics only shot 27% at the rim while being guarded by him. In comparison, Paul Millsap allowed the Celtics to score more points off of fewer shots.
In their first playoff matchup, both the Celtics and the Hawks placed heavy emphasis on driving to the basket. While the Celtics’ drives resulted in more team points per drive, the Hawks did a better job taking care of the ball, having zero turnovers off of their 37 drives.
Game 1 revealed that the more passes Boston completed, the more success they had. The Celtics averaged 0.5 more points per possession in possessions with 6 or more passes compared to possessions with 0-2. On the flip side, Atlanta averaged over double the points per possession in possessions with 0-2 passes versus possessions with 6 or more, while also shooting the ball at a much higher rate (67.2%).
Celtics Rely On Next Man Up
Boston is touting the fact that it doesn’t have a superstar, and will lean on the “next man up.” Marcus Smart will move into the starting lineup, and rookie guards Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter could see extra minutes.