The red hot Hawks came into Boston on Wednesday and extended their winning streak to 10 games, and it wasn’t even close. Playing without Al Horford and Kyle Korver, Atlanta was unfazed and still managed to dominate, 105-91 (click here for full box).
DeMarre Caroll and Jeff Teague led the way for the Hawks with 22 points apiece while Avery Bradley led all Celtics in scoring with 17, but failed to put points on the board in the fourth quarter.
Here’s 5 things we learned in the loss that drops the Celtics to 13-24 on the season:
THE HAWKS ARE REALLY GOOD
The Hawks have been silent assassins all season. Atlanta has lost two games since Thanksgiving and have been rolling over the competition in the process. Teams around the league have certainly taken notice, but so far it is yet to phase the Hawks.
Even without two of their best players (Horford and Korver), the Hawks brought their quiet confidence into Boston and played pretty well. With names like Mike Muscala, Mike Scott and Kent Bazemore playing roles in the rotation and their starters all preforming like equally-talented All-Stars, the Hawks are onto something. Which begs the question: Could the Celtics build a “superstar-less” contender like Atlanta has? Stay tuned for the answer in a followup post.
BRAD STEVENS‘ ROTATION IS DETERMINED
Shortly after experimenting with playing 13 guys in a game, Stevens has decided on a rotation … for now. Well, trades have essentially decided the rotation, but the coach still has had minor decisions to make in the process. With Nate Robinson, Tayshaun Price and Austin Rivers all on the Celtics’ roster, but never expected to wear a green uniform, Stevens is left with 12 healthy bodies.
Phil Pressey and Gerald Wallace have been determined the odd men out (although Pressey played once Boston got down big), which means Stevens has settled on a more sensible 10-man rotation for the time being. Of course, with the way this season has gone, a trade could change the rotation at any moment. But until another trade does occur, it’s pretty safe to say that this is what the rotation will look like.
MARCUS SMART SHOULD BE THE STARTING POINT GUARD
With the recent direction this season has taken, this move just makes sense. Nothing against Evan Turner, he’s a good player (and probably the most fun interview in the locker room). But he’s not only playing out of position, but he has not separated himself enough from Smart to keep the job.
Trading away Rajon Rondo was handing the job to Smart to see what he can do with it; that’s why he was drafted. Smart’s jump shot has improved a lot of late, and now the only way to let him learn the point guard position in the NBA is by allowing him to play there more.
For comparison: Smart finished the game with a line of six points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and two turnovers. Turner finished with three points, four rebounds, six assists, one steal and three turnovers. Both played 27 minutes, it’s time to roll with Smart.
MARCUS THORNTON PLAYED DESPITE TRADE RUMORS
Lately, DNPs for the Celtics mean that you are on the open market — just ask Jameer Nelson and Brandan Wright. Despite reports that teams around the league are interested in Thornton, he was in the lineup on Wednesday. This doesn’t mean the report is false, but based on Danny Ainge’s recent moves, it would suggest that a deal is not yet close on Thornton. On the positive side, Thornton had a strong game, so teams interested likely will remain intrigued. He totaled 10 points to go with three rebounds and two assists. Oddly enough, Thornton was a plus-11 in +/- on the night, a team high by far.
THE C’S CRUMBLED AGAINST HIGH PRESSURE DEFENSE
The Celtics came out of the locker room in the second half and allowed the Hawks to get three quick steals leading to fast breaks. That series pretty much summed up the Celtics’ night. The Celtics finished with 16 turnovers on the night, which isn’t good, but even more concerning is that 13 of them were steals by the Hawks. The C’s simply could not handle the pressure of Atlanta’s defense, something they are going to have to improve upon if they want to not get knocked out of games early as they did Wednesday.