RECAP: Hawks 123, Celtics 111

Daniel Christian —  January 26, 2013

FINAL

BOS(20-23) 111 – 123 (25-18) ATL

Key Performers:

K. Korver (ATL): 27 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl, 2 blk
R. Rondo (BOS): 16 pts, 10 reb, 11 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]

From what I’ve gathered in my years of watching basketball, I’ve noticed that certain games signify certain character traits of a team. Obviously, there will be a wide array of performances that can point their way to a particular emotion for every team, but in rare and ridiculous instances like Friday night’s game, I like to think at least, that it signifies something more than the overcoming of everyday frustration, preparation, and the fatigued body and mind of these players. I like to think, regardless of its validity, that games like THAT, games like the one I just witnessed don’t happen often because a team has to channel something that it often didn’t know it was capable of channeling. There is something about games like this that make you want to believe that it’s more than just Kyle Korver getting hot from three, it’s more than just Jeff Teague changing the pace– and I believe that there is more than that. I can’t really extrapolate or make tangible what that thought is, but in rivalry games where one team (the Celtics) has so often pounded on the other (historically) inferior team (the Hawks), there is some sort of DNA inscribed in that aforementioned inferior unit to finally say “enough!” and overcome obstacles regardless of strenuousness.

Now, for what it’s worth, the Hawks are a better constructed team than the Celtics at this point in time. It’s not rocket science. But there has been a psychological advantage, an unspoken, but yet perfectly understood Boston edge that has exuded Big Brother-esque reactions ever since the 2008 playoff series. The subsequent matches only further contributed to those Bostonian sentiments of superiority. And it looked like it was going to be another lesson, another episode on why the Hawks will always lose to the Celtics regardless of seemingly extraneous factors like age and diminishing individual production of star players. Boston jumped out to a 27-point lead and they led by 19 at the break. This game should have been over. But the Hawks went on an incredible run, AN INCREDIBLE RUN (19-0, I believe it was), to cut into Boston’s lead in the third quarter. The Hawks put their foot down. By the time the third quarter had drawn to a close, the Celtics knew that they were in a blood bath. They knew their psychological advantage was waning, as well as their energy, and the Hawks did well to exploit that.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: It seems like every game warrants the same reaction to the play of Josh Smith: conflicted. I have conflicting opinions almost every time Smoove touches the ball. He was 3-9 from the free throw line and 7-20 from the field, but his defense down the stretch was spectacular. He failed to effectively create his own shot and often settled for silly faders, but he found others and made a few nice passes, even connecting with Horford on a crucial high-low play near the end of the first overtime. For every positive, there was a negative, but those negatives didn’t seem to matter all that much. Sure, I cringed as 6 of those free throws bounced in the wrong direction, but I marveled at the way he strapped up Paul Pierce on one possession and forced Kevin Garnett into a difficult shot on the next. He truly took on the role of a leader in this game, even though he wasn’t killing it with his scoring. He found open teammates, grabbed tons of rebounds, and played great defense. For the purposes of the Hawks’ comeback, he did just what he needed to do. 7/10

Al Horford: Most of Horford’s misses came in the first half. He opened himself up for some easy looks, but things just weren’t falling into place early. As the second half progressed, Horford became more and more comfortable. He was utilized in the high-post and through that he made some nice passes to the perimeter for open three-pointers. He worked the high-low with Josh Smith and crashed the boards on both ends of the floor. He was the guy, though, that really put the nail in the coffin. His strong performance in the second overtime of the game knocked a tired Celtics team on their back. Teague and Korver ran them until they were tired, and then Al kicked them to the ground. 8/10

Kyle Korver: I’ve seen players get streaky from the perimeter before. I used to love watching JJ Redick at Duke because he would just catch fire from beyond the arc and burry opponents with a barrage of long-range jumpers. Having said all of that, what Korver did was pretty much unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. His stretch from the middle of the third quarter to the end of regulation was phenomenal. He made 8 three-pointers in the second half and forced the Celtics to throw their defensive ace, Avery Bradley, on to him, which opened things up for Teague. Korver also sparked the mini-comeback when the Celtics had re-asserted themselves and led by 10 with just under 4 minutes to go in regulation. Kyle canned two consecutive three-pointers to cut the deficit to 4, and from there the Hawks were able to close things out. Bradley definitely neutralized Korver’s impact as he didn’t score in either of the overtimes and was hounded every time he caught the ball, but his 8-11 three-point shooting performance was so phenomenal that Boston had to devote its entire defensive attention to him. 10/10

Jeff Teague: Korver’s three point shooting will get most of the glory for this game, but Teague was the real difference maker tonight. Once Jeff accelerated the pace of the game, Boston didn’t stand a chance. Teague is a terror in the open court, and when he started playing passing lanes and leaking out into transition, Boston was helpless. He found his teammates on the break created for himself, and if it weren’t for him trying to initiate some of that (albeit unsuccessfully) in the first half, then the Hawks would have been down by much more than 19 at the break. Again, Teague was the guy who set everything into motion and the guy who Boston really had no answer for, regardless of if Bradley or someone else was checking him. 9/10

Ivan Johnson: Other than a really sweet euro-step layup, Ivan’s first quarter was a disaster. He couldn’t keep up defensively or on the boards. However, he provided a nice second-half boost when he scored a quick seven points and tied the game in the third quarter. He only played 18 minutes, which is considerably less time than the other starters, but he did contribute. 5/10

Jannero Pargo: Pargo isn’t your all-star defender– far from it, really, but he made a crucial decision on the last play of the first overtime when he dug into the lane and disrupted Pierce’s drive, giving Smith enough time to adjust himself and tip the shot. Pargo, who seemed to struggle with his shot and just moving the ball effectively in regulation, found his groove in the second overtime after Jeff Teague fouled out. He made some great decisions with the ball and sunk a dagger jumper to close things out. 5/10

Devin Harris: There are certain games in which I like Devin playing some point. This was not one of them. He just wasn’t making good decisions with the ball in his hands, and his turnover in the first overtime in the last 30 seconds almost cost the Hawks the game. Still, he’s very effective as a spot-up shooter and loves to run the floor, so his contributions were definitely felt, but he could have played sharper. 5/10

DeShawn Stevenson: Stevenson played 8 minutes. In his 8 minutes he managed to force up two awful three-pointers and have no real impact on the game. This isn’t the same Stevenson we saw throughout December, the one who was locking opposing players up on defense and, every now and then, making his shots. Hopefully he breaks through this slump soon enough. 2/10

Mike Scott: His four minutes didn’t really do anything either way for the game, but he had one really nice pass to Horford who managed to sneak his way next to the basket after a defensive breakdown. So, yeah. Nice pass, Mike. 3/10

John Jenkins: Jenkins only played 6 minutes, and in those minutes he showed some more signs. He caught one pass with about five seconds left on the shot clock, pump faked, waited for the defender to fly by, stepped back, and then took an open three. He missed it, but it was still a nice sequence. Overall, Jenkins didn’t have much of an impact on the game either. 3/10

Larry Drew: I wonder what on earth Larry Drew said to his team at halftime, because the Hawks came out of the gate firing and ready to go. The Hawks were actually creating decent looks for themselves in the first quarter, but once they realized that they weren’t connecting on the easy buckets, for some reason, the team started settling and allowing for a one way transition marathon where Boston could just run down the court, score, wait for the next bricked jumper, then go do the same thing. Drew was able to refocus his team and set them back on the right track in the second half. The Hawks got back to moving the ball and played much better defense, which enabled them to produce their own transition points. I loved his set play out of the timeout at the end of regulation for Smith. There was probably enough contact for a foul on that shot, but you can’t get all the calls. Furthermore, I think he did a great job of adapting to his personnel once Teague fouled out. Atlanta had been struggling all game long with Teague on the bench, and to take some pressure off of Harris, he allowed either Smith or Horford to receive the ball at either the top of the key or the high post, and then run a high-low or wait for the other guys, like Korver, to run around their screens. This worked well enough and sent Boston packing in the second OT.  9/10

The opposition: Boston’s offense is usually impossible to watch, but they still managed to exploit all of Atlanta’s defensive inconsistencies early in the game. They seemed to be asserting themselves once again as the dominant player in this rivalry, which historically they clearly are. But the Hawks really just flipped the switch on them and took the tempo of the game to a whole new level that Boston couldn’t match. After that, the momentum was too much and the Hawks players were too inspired to lose the game. There’s no excuse for losing a 27-point lead though, absolutely none, and the Celtics did that and then some. 4/10

 

Next: Atlanta @ New York, Sunday, January 27

Daniel Christian

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