Remember when the Celtics opened up with a 17-0 lead last Saturday before shellacking Chicago for 48 minutes? Well, they almost did it again Friday night against Atlanta.
This time around, Boston opened up with a 17-3 lead over the visiting Hawks, and they ran away with a convincing 129-108 victory.
There were two keys to the run: defense and 3-point shooting.
Boston defended the ball at an incredibly high level, forcing nine turnovers during the first period alone. Those nine turnovers turned into 20 Celtics points. To put that into context, Boston entered the game averaging 18.0 points off of turnovers per game.
How did the Celtics score many of those points? From long range.
Kyrie Irving (two) and Marcus Morris (one) each connected from long range while Boston pulled ahead 22-5 out of the gates. The Celtics hadn’t missed from beyond the arc when Irving hit his second trey with 7:01 left in the first quarter to give the C’s that 17-point lead.
Atlanta made a brief run to get back into the game, as every NBA team does, but Boston’s victory was never in doubt. The Celtics maintained a double-digit lead for all but 18 seconds of the final 27-plus minutes of the game before finishing off their eighth straight victory.
Three Celtics scored 20 or more points Friday night against Atlanta. It was the player who fell one point shy of that mark, however, who earned our Key Box Score line honors.
Gordon Hayward missed the last two games with an illness but returned to the lineup rust-free Friday night. He played with confidence, he played with efficiency, and he allowed Boston’s offense to operate at a high rate while Kyrie Irving was out of the game.
Hayward was as efficient against the Hawks as he’s been all season, notching 19 points during only 17:41 of playing time. He made seven of his 10 shots, marking the highest shooting percentage of any player on the team who attempted more than one shot. Hayward went 3-for-3 from long distance on the night and also converted on both of his free throws.
In addition to the scoring, Hayward also dished out five assists and grabbed one rebound and one steal.
Boston outscored Atlanta by 21 points while Hayward was on the court. His all-around game, and team-best efficiency, were both welcomed contributions following his brief two-game absence.
Box Score Nuggets
- Boston led by as many as 29 points.
- Three Celtics scored at least 20 points, led by Kyrie Irving's 24. Jayson Tatum (22 points) and Marcus Morris (20 points) were the other two.
- No player on Boston's roster grabbed more than seven rebounds.
- Robert Williams blocked a career-best five shots during only 16-plus minutes of action.
- Kevin Huerter led Atlanta with 19 points.
- Boston's bench scored 56 points, thanks in large part to Gordon Hayward's 19 and Daniel Theis' 18.
- Every Celtics player who checked into the game scored at least two points.
- Both teams tallied at least 27 assists.
- Irving and Marcus Smart each grabbed four steals.
- Morris shot 6-for-8 from long distance.
- Nine Celtics grabbed at least one offensive rebound, led by three from Theis.
- Smart and Kent Bazemore tied for the game high in assists with seven apiece.
Quote of the Night
You can tell they've got a good feel for playing with each other, and yet there are still some groups that I think can play better.
Brad Stevens on Boston's offensive flow.