How the Atlanta Hawks Beat the Boston Celtics
In a complete turn of events and shock to the entire NBA, the Atlanta Hawks actually outplayed the Boston Celtics on Saturday night. Josh Smith looked like a dominant veteran All-Star and led the way to a shocking victory with 27 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. His energy and athleticism paced the Hawks as the Celtics simply could not contend with the young man from Georgia.
Atlanta’s vote for Rookie of the Year Al Horford had another playoff double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds. He continues to look like the most valuable and important rookie in the league, regardless of Durant’s better scoring numbers. Joe Johnson chipped in 23 points for the home team and Bibby didn’t look completely useless with 12 points and 8 assists.
The first stat many will point to after the game is the fact that Atlanta had 28 assists on 36 field goals. The next place many will go is the field goal percentage, where Atlanta shot over 47% from the field, the first time they’ve shot over 40% in the playoffs. The question of course is how did they accomplish this feat, and why do they look like such a completely different team from the first two games.
They key is Josh Smith. With the home crowd behind him, the energy makes Smith a completely different player. He gains confidence, which magically gives him the ability to shoot from behind the arc, as he went 3-5 from behind the 3-point line on Saturday. We’ve seen Smith shoot well from deep in the past, and the team win because of it, but many would just attribute it to luck. The truth is, when Smith is at home and the crowd is behind him, he becomes a completely different player. The energy and rhythm gets him into the game and transforms him into an All-Star. He sprints up and down the court, blocking shots and knocking down jumpers; dunking over everyone and looking like a different class of player. Even the “unbiased” announcers were exclaiming and having fun watching Josh Smith play in a league of his own. It was a fantastic thing to see.
The other key was that Mike Bibby didn’t get completely dominated by Rajon Rondo. Rondo did not necessarily play poorly, nor did Bibby play well, but Bibby did not constantly turn the ball over and give Rondo and the Celtics easy baskets. The entire Hawks team worked the ball around well and didn’t simply rely on one-on-one basketball. They took better shots and while they relied on the three ball, they did not simply shoot from there every time. The team was taking shots closer to the basket and driving better. Attacking the Celtic’s defense is the key to beating it. Relying on jump shots and not making them play on-ball defense is what they want and what makes them look so good.
If the Hawks continue to play like they did on Saturday they will be able to win games against the Celtics, but it still may not grant them the series. Even when the Hawks were playing as well as they could and basically dominating the game, the Green Machine was still in it. The game was tied at halftime, even though few would argue the Hawks outplayed the Celtics in the first half. Atlanta will need to play out of their minds to even win one more game in this series. Do I think they can? Yes. Do I think they can do it in Boston? Not a chance. Boston will still win this series, but at least Atlanta has made the NBA pay attention to “a sure sweep.”