Boston Celtics: Game 4 A Defining Moment for Young Celtics

Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Celtics T-shirts displayed across the seats for spectators before the start of game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Celtics T-shirts displayed across the seats for spectators before the start of game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics dropped the first two games of the series in Atlanta but returned home to Boston with a thrilling victory in Game 3. Tonight, Game 4 will ultimately decide the C’s playoff fate.

The Boston Celtics will either head back to Atlanta for Game 5 on Tuesday down 3-1 in the series, or they could turn this into a best of 3 series by beating the Hawks in Game 4 tonight and tying the series at two games a piece.

After their comeback bid came up just short in Game 1 the Celtics put on an abysmal offensive performance in Game 2, scoring a franchise record low 7 points in the first quarter and only 72 points in total. The team shot under 32% from the field and made 5 out 28 three point attempts.

Related Story: C's Backs Against The Wall

Heading into Game 3 things couldn’t really get much worse for the Celtics. Coming off back-to-back losses, lacking any sort of production on offense, and missing key players in Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk the team found themselves in desperation mode.

As a result of having their backs against the wall, Head Coach Brad Stevens decided to shake up the starting lineup in hopes to get some more offensive production early in the game. Stevens started Swedish Forward Jonas Jerebko in place of Jared Sullinger and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Evan Turner in place of Marcus Smart.

With a Belichick-esque type decision, Brad Stevens once again proved why he deserves to be labeled as one of the best coaches in the NBA. Jerebko finished the game with a double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds) and provided a much needed spark on the offensive side of the ball with his ability to spread the floor, find open teammates, and crash the boards.

Evan Turner also turned in an impressive performance, tallying 17 points to go along with a team leading 7 assists and 5 steals.

The Celtics had a much better game offensively in Game 3 and were able to get valuable contributions from Marcus Smart (11 points, 5 assists) and Amir Johnson (15 points, 7 rebounds) but it was the 5 foot 8 former 60th pick who stole the show.

If you didn’t think Isaiah Thomas was a superstar before, you did after watching him in Game 3. Isaiah torched the Atlanta Hawks for 42 points on 12-24 shooting, and was hitting from absolutely everywhere on the floor. The Hawks didn’t have an answer for Thomas and he proved to the rest of the league that he does in fact have the ability to take over a game and lead a team to a playoff success.

He also showed the rest of the league that if you continuously run your mouth to him all game he’s not afraid to stick his arm out and give you a smack in the face as you run by. Dennis Schroeder found that out the hard way.

Boston Celtics
Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

But after the NBA decided yesterday not to suspend Isaiah for Game 4, the only question now is can he do it again? (The performance, not the smacking.)

With Avery Bradley still out with a hamstring injury, and a Kelly Olynyk return seeming unlikely the Celtics will need Isaiah Thomas to continue carrying the team on his back on the offensive side of the ball. A burden that Thomas will fully embrace.

Isaiah will most likely garner most of the Hawks attention on defense. I expect Mike Budenholzer to do everything in his power to keep the ball out of IT’s hands, and force other members of the Celtics to step up offensively. Thomas will have his hands full as far as getting open, but Brad Stevens has made it a priority to draw up offensive plays that put Isaiah in the best position to get his shot off.

Game 3 was filled with emotion, tenacity, and excitement on both sides. While I expect some of that emotion to carry over into Game 4, I believe tonight’s game will be much more of a chess match than the previous 3.

It’s a pivotal game for both teams, as if playoff games weren’t important already. A 3-1 series lead for the Hawks basically writes their ticket to round 2, but an even series favors the Celtics in the long run.

Although games 5 and 7 would be held in Atlanta, a longer series means a healthier Celtics team. If the series goes to 6 or 7 games there may be a possibility that we see Avery Bradley again, and I’m almost certain that Kelly Olynyk will have returned by then. And while the Hawks will technically have home-court advantage, Atlanta isn’t really what I would consider to be a hostile place to play.

More from Chowder and Champions

With all due respect to the people of Atlanta, the fan support in that city doesn’t exactly strike fear in opposing teams. The Celtics erased a 24 point deficit and nearly completed a historic comeback in that building, there’s no reason that they can’t win a game in Atlanta if they play the way they did in Game 3.

While the Celtics have struggled on offense at many times in this series, they have been able to maintain a strong presence on the defensive side of the ball. Jae Crowder, who has been down right terrible shooting the ball (2-20 in his last two games) has done an incredible job containing Hawk’s dynamic Power Forward Paul Millsap. A big reason why he still finds himself playing big minutes despite his offensive struggles.

If the Celtics can continue to contain Millsap and Horford, while remaining somewhat consistent on the offensive side of the ball, they will have a very realistic chance of advancing to the second round.

That all comes to fruition in Game 4 tonight. This game will be the most important game of Brad Stevens’ young career as an NBA Head Coach, and will also be a marquee moment for rising superstar Isaiah Thomas. This young Celtics team is getting a taste of competitive playoff basketball and has the chance to make a serious name for itself if the players and this Head Coach can comeback and take this series from Atlanta.

Next: Red Sox News and Updates

It won’t be easy. And I’m anticipating a nail-biter in Game 4. But I think the Celtics have some momentum now, a more efficient offensive game-plan, and unlike Atlanta – a home crowd that can actually have a strong impact on a game as they showed in Game 3. I think the Boston Celtics get the job done at home tonight, and eventually take series. All this team needed was to get their first playoff win, and now that they have it I think they’re going to hungry for more.