The Boston Celtics gave themselves life in this series as they defeated the Hawks 111-103 in Game 3. The Hawks now carry a 2-1 series heading into Game 4 on Sunday. Isaiah Thomas led Boston to victory with a career high 42 points on 12-of-24 shooting. For the Hawks, they were led by Jeff Teague’s 23 points.
The Isaiah Thomas slap/punch on Dennis Schröder
Let’s just address the elephant in the room now and get it over with.
And I’m not sure what to call it, a punch or a slap… Whatever it was, it was pretty dirty and cheap from Thomas either way. If you haven’t seen it…
Thomas said he “…didn’t mean to hit him in the head” but how can he say that? There’s no question that Isaiah sees him, he knows full well that Schröder is in front of him. It’s clearly not an accident that Thomas hits him as he passes — that doesn’t just happen. It’s clearly intentional. As best put by the real Isiah Thomas, the Hall of Famer, “There’s always one thing we always used to say… The film don’t lie”…
Dennis Schröder — who let the incident fuel his game as he went on to have his best game of the series scoring 20 points — let his feelings be known on Twitter, before deleting them.
Former Executive Vice President of the NBA, Stu Jackson, believed that Thomas should receive an automatic one game suspension.
“…the rule on this is very clear. If a player swings with an open hand or a closed fist — whether or not you make contact — two things are supposed to happen. One is the player is supposed to be ejected from the game, and secondly the player is subject to a one game suspension…” — Stu Jackson
Apparently this was not enough, as the incident was only upgraded to a flagrant one, meaning Isaiah will face no suspension. How fitting it was a flargrant one for a shot to the head, since they refs were very happy to call any contact to the head, basketball play or not, a flagrant one.
Boston finally making shots, others stepping up
After shooting 34% through the first two games, the Celtics responded with personal series highs of 111 points, 46% shooting from the field, and 34% shooting from behind the arc. The shots that the Celtics were getting, but weren’t falling in the first two games, finally fell in Game 3. Unfortunately for the Hawks, those shots started to fall right from the get-go, as the Celtics poured out 37 first quarter points. More than that, the Celtics finally got some contributions from players not named Isaiah Thomas. In the first quarter eight different Celtics scored, led by Thomas’ 16.
Despite the loss, Coach Bud didn’t feel “overly critical” of his team last night.
“…They threw a heck of a blow coming out of the first quarter and some nights you’re just on the wrong side of that. Could we be better? Yes, but I’m not overly critical of how we responded or how we came out, or how we met expectations being on the road. We need to be better and that includes on a road game there’s lots of things that add up and hopefully we’ll be that going forward.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
Kyle Korver said that Game 3 was more about Boston playing well than Atlanta playing poorly, and that the Celtics’ hot start caught the Hawks on their heels.
“…They came out and played great. I’m sure there were mistakes that we made, but it was more them playing really well and feeding off the crowd; the crowd was amazing tonight for them. They hit a bunch of shots early, shots they hadn’t hit in the first two games and caught us on our heels a little bit.” — Kyle Korver
I think that’s a fair assessment — the Celtics did play a very good game. Players stepped up and made shots that the Hawks wanted them take (for example, 24% three-point shooter Marcus Smart went 2-of-4 from behind the arc). And what is there to say about Thomas’ 42 points? The Celtics found a way to get him going by playing him a little off-ball and running more screen action for him and, man, did it work for them.
“It was a really good adjustment that they made and they were setting really good screens. That wasn’t a look that we had seen from them this series. Its something we were talking after the game and we have to be ready for it. But definitely gives him a different look when he’s coming off the screen.” — Kyle Korver
Now, relying on this kind of scoring output isn’t really ideal, but it got the Celtics back into the series.
Evan Turner also got some shots to go down as he scored 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting, Amir Johnson added 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting, and Jonas Jerebko also pitched in with 11 on 5-of-11 shooting. Again, others stepped up last night for the Celtics and that helped get this job done.
Millsap and Horford limited
While the Celtics did have a lot of different players step up for them last night and got 42 points from Thomas, this win may have been questionable had Millsap and Horford been able to leave more of an imprint on the offensive end, in terms of their own personal scoring output. Both finished with eight points each (3-of-9 shooting for Millsap, 4-of-10 for Horford) and both guilty of missing some bunnies near the Celtics’ basket.
The Hawks need at least one of their All-Stars to make an impression on that Boston frontline — both have too much skill and offensive weapons to struggle like this. That said, Jerebko and Johnson are two solid defenders and you have to give them their due because they played a good game, particularly Amir Johnson whose help defense was great.
Three games into this series and Paul Millsap is only averaging 8.6 points. It’s been a tough series for him, as the Celtics have made sure his life has not been easy. You’d imagine the Hawks will find ways to get him more involved in the offense, but at the same time he has missed a lot of easy opportunities that he normally makes. We’ll see what happens in Game 4.
Difficulties in the fourth quarter
The Hawks were in with a shout to win this game in the fourth quarter having trailed by as many as 21 points. They had their chances to either take the lead or keep the game close, but they left a lot of points at the rim, shooting 5-of-12 at the rim in the fourth quarter.
That’s a lot of shots to miss near the rim and it cost the Hawks in the end.
Paul Millsap had a very tough sequence in this quarter worth mentioning — he missed a dunk over the 5’9 Thomas and then proceeds to give up an ‘and 1’ foul to Evan Turner, putting the Celtics up 104-98. That’s a five point swing, instead of a made dunk to bring the Hawks within one point — 100-101 — now you’re down by six points. Tough blow for the Hawks, and they would chase the game the rest of the way.
The best/worst flop of the season
We talk about playoff hustle, playoff fouls, and I like to think of this as a playoff flop.
“That’s happened a lot of times in this series. I’m not that strong.” — Kyle Korver
Congratulations, Marcus Smart, you really brought your A-Game for this one. Hope it was worth the $5,000…