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Coming off their two biggest blowout wins of the season, the Boston Celtics were hoping to carry some positive momentum into Atlanta Friday night in a showdown against a soaring Hawks that had won five straight. Instead, Boston's surging offense went stagnant for the first and last quarters of the matchup, leading to a 108-92 loss at State Farm Arena.
After handing out 26 assists in a 29-point win over Washington Sunday afternoon and 32 assists in a 53-point win over Sacramento Tuesday night, Boston took a turn south in the ball movement department Friday night, dishing out only 15 helpers for its second-lowest assist total of the season.
The C’s took more of an iso-heavy approach and it didn’t pay off, as they shot just 19.4 percent from 3-point range and 34.9 percent overall.
“It didn’t feel we shared it as much as we had been, and that we were more crisp with ball movement and body movement in previous games,” head coach Ime Udoka said after the game. “Kind of got bogged down, not our sharpest game, and not a great night to shoot poorly from three.”
On top of their poor shooting, the C’s also committed too many costly mistakes. Boston turned the ball over 18 times, marking a rare occurrence in which they recorded more turnovers than assists.
Jaylen Brown took much of the blame for that stat, as he committed a game-high seven turnovers despite also leading the game in scoring and rebounding with a 26-point, 12-board double-double.
“They did a good job of being active and having active hands, but we’ve just gotta make better reads. I’ve gotta make better reads,” Brown said. “I’ve gotta be more aggressive. I think I was shooting when I was supposed to pass and passing when I was supposed to shoot. Atlanta did a good job of keeping me on my toes, but just overall a lax game. Too many turnovers. And that’s my fault.”
Though, it wasn’t a lax game entirely, as the Celtics outscored Atlanta 57-48 in the middle quarters. Unfortunately, they just had a dismal start and finish to the game, as Atlanta held a 32-20 lead after one quarter and also had a 28-15 advantage in the final frame.
Boston nearly overcame a 15-point halftime deficit, going on a furious rally in the third quarter before pulling within one point near the start of the fourth.
“We were attacking more, penetrating, kicking out,” Jayson Tatum said of that run. “Just generating better looks and gave ourselves a chance, and we were playing better defense.”
However, Boston couldn’t get over the hump as its offense went cold down the stretch. After Tatum’s fadeaway jumper pulled them within one at the 9:42 mark of the fourth quarter, Boston went on a 1-for-12 stretch over the next eight-plus minutes. Meanwhile, Atlanta went off on an 18-2 run to seal the game.
The Celtics weren’t happy with how they closed out against the Hawks, but they're looking forward to putting the loss behind them right away as they head straight down to New Orleans to complete the second half of a back-to-back Saturday night.
“I'm excited about tomorrow,” Tatum said in anticipation of his team’s upcoming matchup with the Pelicans. “Get a chance to redeem yourself and forget about this one."
Brown had a similar mindset, noting how he and his teammates must immediately shift their focus to a hungry New Orleans team that they just beat less than two weeks ago in Boston.
“You have to have a short-term memory,” Brown said. “We beat the Pelicans last time we played them. I'm sure they are going to be out for revenge to get a W on us, so we got to come to play, we got to show up to play, everybody has to be ready.”