For all the ugly statistics to come out of the Boston Celtics’ Game 2 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday — trust us, there were plenty — there’s one that possibly provides hope: If you take away both first quarters, the Celtics have outscored the Hawks by 10 points so far.
Of course, that stat is little solace for a Boston team that managed just 72 points at Philips Arena on Tuesday to fall into an 0-2 hole in the best-of-seven opening-round playoff series. It also ignores the elephant in the room: the Celtics’ extreme aversion to the first quarter.
The C’s have been outscored by a combined 28 points in both first quarters of the series and scored just seven points in the first 12 minutes of Tuesday’s game. Simply put, that’s not going to cut it.
“We scored seven points in the first quarter and trailed 24-7,” Celtics swingman Evan Turner said, via the Celtics’ Twitter account. “In a playoff game, that shouldn?t ever happen.”
“I’ll go back and look at it,” head coach Brad Stevens said in a postgame interview aired on CSN New England. “Watch it without sound, watch it without emotion. Figure out what looked right, what didn’t look right, and see if we can’t bottle more of that up. But listen, we start down 24-7 and we look like we’re moving at a speed far less than them, it’s going to be a tough night. Doesn’t matter where we’re playing or when we’re playing. We’ve got to be better out of the gate.”
Tuesday’s game figured to be a challenge for Boston, which entered without two of its better shooters in Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley. Their absence was felt most behind the arc, where the Celtics made just five of 28 3-point attempts.
“It’s unfortunate for us,” Celtics forward Jae Crowder said in a postgame interview on CSN New England. “Those guys are key to what we have going on here. But we have a lot of good players in this locker room (who can) step up and make plays, and we didn’t.”
As if the Celtics’ shooting struggles weren’t troubling enough, their historically bad first quarter was the latest in a brutal trend. The C’s have failed to top 20 first-quarter points in three straight games and haven’t scored more than 41 first-half points in four consecutive games.
“We’ve just got to find a way to get over that hump, I guess,” Celtics forward Amir Johnson said in postgame interview on CSN New England. “I don’t know what it’s going to take — extra warmups for guys — but those first quarters definitely hurt us. We came out sluggish and they came out with a haymaker. And we definitely have to change that.”
Stevens wouldn’t say whether he’d make any drastic changes before Game 3 in Boston. But the harsh truth is that the Celtics simply need to play with more purpose out of the gate if they want to have a chance in this series. That turnaround will need to start Friday at TD Garden.
“We go home and protect home court,” Crowder said. “Forget everything that’s happened, go home and protect where we play at every other night. Do it for our fans, do it for ourselves, and see where we’re at.”
Thumbnail photo via Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports Images