If you thought the first time Boston faced the Atlanta Hawks this season was bad, Wednesday night blew that out of the water.
The Celtics fell 127-112 in their third matchup against the Hawks this year, but the score alone doesn’t suggest how much of a mess this game was on both sides of the ball for Boston.
Uninspired on defense, ice cold on offense and looking like they desperately need the All-Star break to hurry up and get here, the team’s third straight loss is testing the patience of presumably everyone involved.
That includes coach Brad Stevens, who admitted after the loss in his postgame Zoom conference.
“I’ve had my moments, let’s put it that way,” Stevens said.
“That said, I think this team looks like right now, it’s balancing playing unconfidently and unsure with the fact that we’ve had a couple (of games) that slipped away. And so the only way I know to get that back is to dive on the floor, is to take charges, is to like sprint to help your teammates, is to fight for every single possession. And that’s our charge. And I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. But it’ll be said, in whatever way it needs to be said, and we just need to make sure that we’re doing our job. Listen, none of us are happy with the job that we have done.”
They shouldn’t be, as their issues climaxed against Atlanta.
What do you even say about an offensive performance where no Boston player managed to score more than 17 points? Jeff Teague’s 14 points randomly backed up Jaylen Brown as the leading scorers against the Hawks.
Brown and Jayson Tatum were 1-for-18 from deep, and the Celtics’ collective 3-point percentage was a measly 25.8% on 31 attempts. Tatum’s 13-point, one-rebound, one-assist game felt especially abysmal. Daniel Theis had zero points. Boston trailed by as many as 27.
Most concerning was their lack of fight, and there’s no one thing that can be said to snap the Celtics out of this rut. They look exhausted, and Stevens is putting a lot of credence into the next four games before the break to see if his team gives him any signs of life.
“I think we’re all stung and disappointed with how we played, I think that has affected the confidence of the group,” Stevens said. “And instead of fighting, scratching and clawing, we’ve had moments where we haven’t. And we have to get back to that. So this team has it in them. And I’ve been lucky enough to be there before with them. And I know that they, I know what they have in them. These next four games will tell us a lot about where we can go.”
Here are some other takeaways from the Celtics’ loss to the Hawks:
— In eight-straight games now, an opposing player has dropped at least 30 points against the Celtics.
Wednesday night, it was Danilo Gallinari and obviously, Trae Young.
The latter clearly felt snubbed by the NBA after not earning All-Star honors, and he wanted to show how deserving he was against a team below .500 that features not one, but two players who earned the nod for Boston.
Young had 33 points with seven assists and was 5-for-11 from the perimeter. Gallinari led Atlanta with 38 points after shooting an insane 10-for-12 from deep.
“The deep threes and everything else, you know a lot of nights you feel pretty good about those shots. But tonight you didn’t because they all went in,” Stevens said of the Hawks’ sharpshooters. “First of all, you know I think anybody can win on any given night in the NBA against anyone, that’s been proven time and again. But when you have shown some of the vulnerabilities that we’ve shown, then you have to earn it back with your play and your effort and your intensity and better coaching and all this stuff that goes into this.”
— With the loss, the Celtics fell to 15-17 on their season and now are the No. 7 spot in the Eastern conference. Yikes.
— Having fun yet? Neither are we. Let’s do this song and dance again Friday, Feb. 26 as the Celtics host the Indiana Pacers in Boston. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. ET.