Game Three Will Be Won Or Lost In The First Quarter

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NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks

The Celtics have headed into the locker room at halftime facing a deficit in each of their last four games.  In one of those match-ups, they were able to stage a miracle comeback and beat the Miami Heat after trailing by 26.  Unfortunately they haven’t had the same luck in the other three.

Dating back to their 114-100 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on April 11th, the C’s haven’t just been beaten in the first half of games.  They’ve been completely embarrassed, getting outscored by a total 219 to 141.  That’s a differential of 78 points.

Looking back on the last two games of the regular season as well as game one of their first round series against Atlanta, you would think they would have put an emphasis on starting out stronger so they don’t have to try and dig themselves out of a hole.  Instead they came out of the gates with the worst offensive quarter in the history of the NBA Playoffs in game two.  After their already glaring issues in regards to getting off to slow starts, they became the first team that has ever managed to put up only seven points in one quarter of a postseason game.

After all of the praise that Brad Stevens has deservedly gotten over the last couple years, this may be his lowest point so far as an NBA coach.  His team has fought hard all year but is falling apart during the most crucial part of the season.  I understand that there have been injuries, but just a few weeks ago they broke the Warriors’ 54-game home winning streak without Jae Crowder in the lineup.

Injuries or no injuries, there’s no excuse for scoring seven points in a quarter to start the game.  It’s certainly not Stevens’ fault that shots aren’t falling, but some of the blame for the consistently bad shot selection needs to fall on him.  The Celtics have relied on the three far too much in the first two games of this series considering that they’re only shooting 25% from deep.

What’s most frustrating is that the their defense has been incredible.  They’re holding the Hawks to 39% from the field.  Normally that would be good enough to win, but not when you cancel it out by shooting 34% yourself.

The Garden crowd will be key in games three and four.  The biggest key, however, will be scoring points in the first quarter.  If the shots aren’t falling, drive to the basket and get to the free throw line.  The Hawks have shot 51 free throws so far compared to Boston’s 31. Some of that is poor officiating, most of it is lack of aggression.  If the Celtics can set the tone in the first quarter of game three, they’ll cruise to a win and make this a series again.

This means not being afraid of Atlanta’s bigs.  They’re good but they’re not that good.  They’ve been completely over-hyped in this series and it’s part of the reason that the C’s have been timid about going down low.  I still believe that Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson are capable of holding their own against them in the paint.


Follow Jack Bardsley on Twitter @BostonsBigFour

Photo Credit: Jason Getz/USA Today via


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