Although the Celtics fought a competitive series, the Atlanta Hawks proved to be too much and ousted them from the playoffs with their Game 6 win, 104-92. It was a magnificent team effort by the Hawks whose offense was incredibly unselfish and fluid. Despite such stellar offense, defense is where they sealed the game.
The first quarter saw terrible offense from both teams, but Atlanta was able to hold a 20-17 lead despite shooting 39% from the field; Boston shot 29%. Kent Bazemore and Tim Hardaway Jr. tallied five points each while Paul Millsap held down the defensive end and rejected three shots. Boston found a bit of offense from Jonas Jerebko who had eight of the team’s points on 3/5 shooting; Isaiah Thomas, who was playing with a mildly sprained ankle, had five points, and Evan Turner finished up the scoring with four.
Atlanta’s shooting began to rise in the second quarter, and they finished 8/17 (47%) from the field with 21 points. The ball movement was scintillating, and the Hawks collected seven assists on the eight made field goals. Dennis Schroder, Mike Muscala, and Millsap had four points each, and Kyle Korver, Al Horford, Bazemore, and Hardaway made up the other nine. Boston was still unable to get their offense rolling, and they suffered another very poor shooting quarter. Going 0/9 from three didn’t help, and the Celtics finished with 16 points from six made baskets in 23 attempts. Somehow, the Hawks’ lead was only 41-33.
Just as everyone thought the Celtics could make a comeback, the Hawks obliterated Boston’s defense in the third. Their shooting percentage jumped to a staggering 74%, and they hung up 39 third quarter points. Horford (11) and Teague (6) combined for 17 points on 8/9 shooting, and six other Hawks aided in the effort. Boston’s offense improved as well but was not capable of matching Atlanta’s. The Celtics managed to shoot a tick under 43% and put up 26 points, with nine from Marcus Smart and six from Thomas.
Trailing 80-59 going into the fourth, Boston’s offense exploded for 33 points, but it was almost irrelevant. Thomas had ten points, Jae Crowder had nine, and Tyler Zeller had eight as Boston shot 46% from the field and cut the deficit to 12 by the end of the game. The Hawks attempted just 15 shots, hitting seven, and put up 24 points before the final buzzer. Kyle Korver had seven to lead them, and Bazemore, Millsap, and Schroder put up 12 points between them.
Isaiah Thomas had a game-high 25 points and ten assists in 43 minutes of action. Jae Crowder was next with 15, and Jerebko and Smart had 13 points each. The Hawks had six double-digit scorers: Millsap (17), Horford (15), Bazemore (15), Korver (14), Schroder (12), and Teague (11).
Atlanta’s first game against the Cavaliers is Monday, May 2, in Cleveland at 7:00 PM EST. In last year’s matchup in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs swept the 60-win Hawks and were without Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving played just two games; LeBron James nearly averaged a triple-double with 30.3 points, 11 rebounds, and 9.3 assists per game.
For the third time in the last four years, the Celtics have been bounced in the first round.