The Boston Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks for their second straight postseason victory. The series will now head back to Atlanta for Game 5 tied at 2-2.
If the Boston Celtics did not have you pounding your coffee table with excitement and covering your face with your hands in frustration at the same time, then you must have been watching a different basketball game.
Last night’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks was the most thrilling Celtics game I have seen in years. I have not been on the edge of my seat like I was last night for a Celtics game since the Big 3 era. There was never a dull moment and no matter how frustrated I got with watching Paul Millsap dominate the paint and Jared Sullinger looking like a bonehead, I couldn’t bring myself to change the channel. Not for one second.
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I have to give credit where credit is due, and Paul Millsap deserves credit. He took over the game last night for the Hawks, scoring 45 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. No Hawks player has put up those type of numbers in a playoff game since Dominique, so my hat’s off to Millsap. It was an incredible performance and had it not been for him, last night wouldn’t have been as exciting as it was.
Despite Millsap’s monster game the Celtics were able to pull off a 104-95 overtime victory over the Hawks. The Celtics found themselves down by as many as 16 at one point but like they have done time and time again in this series, they kept fighting and clawed their way back into the game.
Last night the Celtics were able to get something out of their roster that they have struggled to get all season – secondary scoring. Isaiah Thomas carried the team offensively in the regular season averaging over 22 points per game, and while he has by far been the Celtics best offensive player this postseason as well, the team needed to get some offense going around him and they were able to do just that in Game 4.
Second year guard Marcus Smart had a career defining game last night. A guy known for his defensive presence, tenacity, and hustle – found a way to take over the game on both sides of the ball in a crucial postseason game. At one point in the fourth quarter, Smart scored 11 straight points for the Celtics, including a pair of 3 pointers and a tenacious baseline slam.
Smart was also the only Celtic who had success slowing down Millsap. While Smart guarded Millsap for much of the fourth quarter and overtime, Millsap shot just 1-5 from the field. The Hawks as a whole, shot 1-10 when Marcus Smart was the primary defender. Quite impressive numbers given the fact that Marcus had the responsibility of guarding Kent Bazemore, Kyle Korver, and Paul Millsap.
The Boston Celtics also got solid production from Jonas Jerebko for the second consecutive game.
Coach Brad Stevens inserted Jerebko into the starting lineup in Game 3 and the 6 foot 10 Swede responded by notching a double-double and leading the Celtics in minutes. In Game 4, Jonas played even better. He recorded his second straight double-double, scoring 16 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Jerebko, aka The Swedish Chef, also shot 67 percent from the field including 3-6 from beyond the arc.
I don’t know who to credit more in this situation, Jerebko for his play or Brad Stevens for his decision to start him?
Evan Turner, who also started his second straight game chipped in with a solid 17 points and Amir Johnson contributed with 9 points and 9 rebounds.
The supporting cast played extremely well for the Celtics but it was once again Isaiah Thomas who led the Celtics offensive charge.
Isaiah finished the game with 28 points, including a driving layup in the final 20 seconds to tie the game and send it to overtime.
In overtime with the Celtics up by 4 and only 30 seconds remaining, Thomas hit a game clinching three from the corner that sent the Garden into a frenzy.
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Isaiah leads all players in scoring this postseason, averaging over 28 points per game. Proving to the rest of the league that he is in fact a superstar and has the ability to carry a team throughout the playoffs.
The series is now tied up after 4 games and heads back to Atlanta for a critical Game 5 on Tuesday night. The Celtics dropped the first two games of the series on the road in Atlanta but will need at least one road victory to advance to the second round.
Momentum certainly favors the Celtics at this point, but many would argue that momentum doesn’t carry all that much significance in a playoff series. I disagree with that statement however.
This team has now won its first two playoff games as a collective group and has been able to experience how the fans and the city react when they win in the postseason. The Celtics have Bostons full attention and they seem to be feeding off of that excitement and intensity.
The Celtics were continuously doubted in the regular season, they were doubted coming into the series, and they were doubted even more after going down 0-2, but they have fought and fought some more and have now turned this into a best of 3. These guys know that they have what it takes to win and now that other players are stepping up and gaining confidence outside of Isaiah, they could be a team to be reckon with in the Eastern Conference.
Coach Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics will need to continue to execute offensively in Game 5. When the Celtics are hitting shots and playing well on offense they are an extremely difficult team to beat.
Defensively the Celtics have done an outstanding job against Atlanta. Sure, Millsap went off last night but he was virtually a non-factor in the first 3 games of the series and Brad Stevens should make the necessary adjustments to ensure that he does not have a repeat performance in Game 5.
The team has also done an outstanding job of shutting down all star Center Al Horford. Horford had only 5 points last night in Game 4, and in Game 3 he only had 8. The Celtics will need to continue to have success defending Horford if they are going to take a game in Atlanta.
The formula is in place for the Celtics. Now it just comes down to execution. If the Boston Celtics can carry the success they’ve had on offense in Boston to Atlanta, the team should be able to pull off a victory in Game 5 and have a chance to close the series in Boston on Thursday night in Game 6.
For everything that was said about this team – they don’t have a superstar, they can’t close out games in the 4th, they have too many role players – they sure seem to be proving everybody wrong. It may only be a matter of days before they prove Vegas and all the experts who said they won’t advance wrong as well.