The Boston Celtics playoff run began yesterday against the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden, with the Celtics dominating the Hawks to a 112-99 Game 1 victory.
For much of the season, the Celtics' offense was the main talking point for this squad, something that was the opposite of the usual gritty, tough defense that has been a part of this team for the past few seasons.
Well, that kind of defense was on full display yesterday.
In front of a full house from C's fans, the Celtics smothered Atlanta defensively. Consistent close outs, hounding Trae Young, and Marcus Smart showcasing his defensive prowess gave Atlanta fits.
It started in the first half with the Hawks shooting only 6.3% from three (no, that's not a typo) and 33% from the floor. Robert Williams III looked like his usual, springy self on the defensive end, while Derrick White and Smart took turns bullying Atlanta's guards. This left the door wide open for the Celtics' offense to get hot en route to a 74-44 halftime lead.
Boston appeared to lose some of that intensity in the second half, allowing the Hawks' offense to get going a little. Their lead shrunk to twelve at one point before the Celtics went on another run to close out the game with a win.
Jaylen Brown finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds, while Jayson Tatum scored 25 on the day. White had a game in his own right, notching 24 points of his own to go along with seven assists.
For me however, the player of the game was Smart, who went for 11 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists, but his three steals and two blocks came at crucial times in the Hawks' rally attempts and (as always) were very "Smart-like." His intensity and "bring your hardhat to work" mentality is the kind of play style that the organization has been accustomed to. I can't wait to see how frustrated he makes Trae Young as the series progresses.
Game 2 is on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. EST on NBA TV as the Celtics look to ride this momentum to a 2-0 series lead.
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Stay tuned for more Celtics coverage as they continue their playoff run!
- W. Monast