Celtics-Hawks takeaways: C's blow 30-point lead in stunning loss


Celtics-Hawks takeaways: C’s blow 30-point lead in stunning loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics had their nine-game win streak snapped on Monday night with one of their worst losses in recent memory.

At first, it appeared the C’s would cruise to an easy win over their Eastern Conference foe. They erupted for 44 first-quarter points — their ninth 40-point first quarter of the season — to jump out to a quick 22-point lead. They also recorded their 17th 70-point first half of the campaign, setting a new franchise record and tying the NBA record.

Then, they got sloppy.

The Hawks cut the Celtics’ 30-point lead to three in the third quarter with a 37-10 run. They pulled ahead in a back-and-forth final frame that ended with Atlanta on top, 120-118.

Boston was without starting guards Derrick White (hand) and Jrue Holiday (shoulder). With them sidelined, head coach Joe Mazzulla made superstar forward Jayson Tatum the de facto point guard. The five-time All-Star was a bright spot in the loss, totaling 37 points (23 in first half) on 13-of-26 shooting.

Several Hawks players, including three-time All-Star Trae Young (hand), were out. Still, all five Atlanta starters scored in double figures including De’Andre Hunter (24 points) and Clint Capela (22 points).

The C’s and Hawks will face off in Atlanta again on Thursday night. Before we look ahead to the rematch, here are three takeaways from Monday’s action.

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Strong start, stunning result

All signs pointed toward this game being among the Celtics’ biggest blowout wins of the season through the first one-and-a-half quarters. They erupted for 44 points in the first quarter and 74 in the half, leading by as many as 30 with their “Big Three” of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kristaps Porzingis combining for 51 through the first two frames.

The wheels started to fall off with just over four minutes to go in the second quarter. The Hawks ripped off a 37-10 run in an eight-and-a-half-minute span to cut Boston’s 30-point lead to three.

The Celtics were outscored 34-22 in the third quarter, and their struggles continued into the fourth as the Hawks pulled ahead for their first lead of the night. After a back-and-forth final few minutes, De’Andre Hunter’s dagger 3-pointer put Atlanta up for good with 9.2 seconds left on the clock.

Boston’s blown 30-point lead marked its largest since 2000. While this game means little in the grand scheme of things to a team that already clinched the top seed in the East, it’s the type of performance Joe Mazzulla’s group will want out of its system by the time the playoffs begin.

A rare rough night from 3

The Celtics entered Monday with a 50-4 record this season when shooting at least 33.3 percent from 3-point range. They’re now 7-11 when shooting under that threshold.

Their struggles from beyond the arc lasted throughout the second half. They shot just 1-for-15 (0.67 percent) from deep in the final two quarters, tying their season-low for 3-point makes in any half. That woeful stretch included 14 consecutive misses.

No Celtics player made more than two 3-pointers. Sam Hauser, who had been on fire from long range, was just 2-for-10 on 3s. Tatum was 2-for-7.

Boston shot 11-for-38 (28.9 percent) from 3, its lowest mark since its March 7 loss to Denver. Meanwhile, the Hawks seemingly couldn’t miss. They finished 18-for-36 from deep with most of their makes coming during the Celtics’ cold spell.

The Celtics totaled just 44 points in the entire second half after scoring 44 in the first quarter.

Too much iso

The C’s had it all working for them in the first half, and that’s because they were doing what they do best: moving the ball.

The offense was humming through the first two frames as they dished 17 assists. But for whatever reason, the offensive strategy switched down the stretch. Rather than move the ball around, they opted for iso ball with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

The result was only four assists in the second half, Boston’s fewest in any half this season. To put into perspective how crucial ball movement is to the Celtics’ success, they’re 45-8 with 24 or more assists (25-2 with 29+) and now 12-7 with 23 or fewer.

This will be one key area to improve on when these two teams meet again Thursday night.



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