Celtics Acknowledge ‘Real Challenge’ Ahead Vs. Hawks After Two Games

'This is the first test'


Apr 18, 2023

BOSTON — The Celtics completed the task at hand of taking both home games to begin their first-round series against the Hawks, but there’s still work to be done.

As will likely be the case down the line for the Celtics, the series doesn’t begin until Boston shows its ability to win on the road. And the Celtics were well aware of that following their 119-106 Game 3 victory over the Hawks on Tuesday night.

“We did what we were supposed to do,” Derrick White said. “Held home court, and now we got the real challenge of the playoffs which is winning on the road. We know they’re gonna play better at home and we’re gonna have to step up our level of play.”

The C’s were in control for most of four quarters against the Hawks, but a few sluggish lapses, particularly in the third frame, which allowed Atlanta to cut the deficit from 20 points down to nine, proved costly down the stretch. And it ultimately limited Boston from a much more smooth sailing ending before the series headed for Atlanta.

Boston also benefitted from a poorly-executed game plan from Atlanta’s end: Tossing up as many 48 3-pointers while only connecting on 33.3% of them. The Hawks, who out-rebounded the Celtics, 49-44, found a way to slightly make up for their inability to net outside shots, adding an extra 13 points to their score from second-chance opportunities — posing another area for Boston to brush up on before Game 3.

“I think they had like 19 offensive rebounds. We gotta do better than that,” Jayson Tatum said. “… They got more shots up so things like that we gotta do better at going into Game 3 or 4. Cause they probably feel like if they had made some more open shots that the series might look different. So that’s some things we can control.”

With Atlanta down two games — a daunting place — they’ve made one thing clear since crawling back from their 30-point deficit at halftime in Game 1: The Hawks aren’t a pushover, yet. Somehow, someway, they’ve cornered the Celtics to adjust, whether that’d be forced feeds to White with Tatum or Brown double-teamed, or getting second-chance looks when shots around the perimeter aren’t falling.

Either way, there’s no room for the Celtics to feel content yet.

“This is a part of the journey,” Jaylen Brown said. “Two games up is great. Taking care of home, but being able to win games on the road is gonna ultimately make you a championship team. So this is the first test and I’m looking forward to it.”

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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