Hawks center Al Horford (15) grabs a pass against against Marcus Smart (36) in the first quarter Tuesday at Philips Arena. (Jason Getz-USA Today Sports)
Talk about adding insult to injury.
The Celtics were embarrassed Tuesday night in epic fashion, falling behind by 21 points in the first six minutes, and never fully recovered in an 89-72 loss to the Hawks in Game 2 at Philips Arena. Atlanta leads the best-of-7 series, 2-0, as it shifts to Boston for Game 3 Friday night at TD Garden.
Isaiah Thomas was ice cold at the start but finished strong and led Boston with 16 points while Amir Johnson added 14. The trio of Thomas (4-for-15), Marcus Smart (1-for-11) and Jae Crowder (1-for-8) combined to shoot just 6-for-34.
Already down Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk, the Celtics lost Smart briefly in the first 15 seconds when Kent Bazemore went up for a layup and kneed Smart in the right hip.
Smart, who started in place of Bradley, would play just six minutes in the opening quarter before leaving with Dr. Brian McKeon. He was evaluated with a hip contusion and cleared to return. In his place, Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter struggled to help Isaiah Thomas get the offense going.
Kyle Korver, who was just 1-for-10 in Game 1, knocked down three 3-pointers. The last of the three treys helped Atlanta explode to a 24-3 with 5:28 left in the first quarter. But fortunately for the Celtics, the Hawks were scoreless for the final five and a half minutes of the first quarter.
Still, the Celtics managed just seven points themselves, trailing 24-7 after the first. It marked the lowest offensive output in any quarter in Celtics playoff history. The Celtics shot 3-for-23 from the field in the opening 12 minutes, including missing all six shots from long range. The seven points also set a dubious new NBA record for the fewest points ever scored in the opening quarter of any playoff game.
The two teams combined to miss 16 consecutive shots before Evan Turner connected for a reverse layup at the start of the second quarter.
The Celtics made their first run to get back in the game in the second quarter, using a 23-12 spurt to get back within ten, 36-26, on an Amir Johnson hook shot with 6:08 to go before halftime. But the Celtics went ice cold again while the Hawks found some easy offense.
The Celtics missed their last eight shots of the first half and trailed 43-28 at the break. The first half continuing a troubling trend for Boston, which trailed Charlotte 63-41, Miami 62-38 and Atlanta 51-34 in the previous three games at halftime. Atlanta’s 11 turnovers combined with 15-of-40 (37.5 percent) shooting gave Boston life heading into the second half.
Jared Sullinger suffered through his second straight first half struggle, scoring just four points and grabbing only three rebounds in ten minutes of play. As a result, Evan Turner replaced him in the starting lineup to open the second half, joining Amir Johnson, Smart, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder on the floor.
With a reverse layup with 10:01 left in the third, Turner converted a pretty reverse layup to draw Boston to within 11, 45-34. The Hawks kept missing open looks, allowing the Celtics to hang around. But the Celtics again chose a horrid time to go into an extended drought. Between that Turner layup and Isaiah Thomas’ layup with 4:08 left, the Celtics were held without a field goal. In that five minute, 53-second span, the Hawks were able to add only a single point to their lead.
The Celtics had the ball to end the third quarter. But a missed three from Marcus Smart led to a transition three from Al Horford with 0.4 left in the quarter, as Atlanta took a 61-45 lead to the fourth. Thabo Sefalosha hit back-to-back baskets, putting the Hawks up 18, 69-51, with 8:30 left. Sefalosha drilled a corner three with 7:48 left to put Atlanta ahead, 72-53.
Isaiah Thomas helped the Celtics go on an 8-0 run to draw within 15, 76-61, with over five minutes left but Al Horford delivered a layup and a set-shot three to bump the lead back to 18 with four minutes left.
The Celtics have lost their last seven playoff games dating back to a Game 5 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in the Eastern Conference first round series in 2013.
The Celtics will try to somehow regroup and find a way not to embarrass themselves in the first half in Game 3, set for Friday night at 8 p.m. at TD Garden.
For a compete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.
STUD OF THE NIGHT: Amir Johnson
He was the only trust-worthy offensive option in the first half. While that might be damning by faint praise, he did lead the team with eight points at the half. His block of Paul Millsap with eight minutes left in the third was a monstrous one.
DUD OF THE NIGHT: Marcus Smart
Asked to fill in for Avery Bradley, he was 1-for-11 from the field. While he’s not an offensive wizard, he’s got to be better than that. Runner-up No. 1: Jared Sullinger. Things got so bad that he was benched to start the second half on a night when the Celtics were without two key offensive players in Bradley and Olynyk. Inserted in the game midway through the third, he committed two fouls and turned the ball over while backing into the paint. Runner-up No. 2: Jae Crowder. He again missed open look after open look as it’s becoming obvious he hasn’t recovered fully from his high ankle sprain.
VIDEO OF THE NIGHT: