The Hawks have started to hit; the Celtics just hit the wall

Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha (25) drives between Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder, left, and guard Marcus Smart during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball playoffs first-round series Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 110-83. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Sefolosha steamroller. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

In addition to being a very good coach, Boston’s Brad Stevens is precise with words. After the Atlanta Hawks beat his Celtics 110-83 in Game 5, he said: “They were more physical, more aggressive. They were just BETTER.”

There aren’t supposed to be major upsets in a 4-versus-5 series, but it would be a massive stunner if the Hawks lost this now. The sounds you heard Tuesday at Philips Arena were the whoosh of the Hawks’ jet engine of an offense and the splat of the modestly appointed Celtics hitting the proverbial wall.

Boston led 20-15 after a quarter and 29-19 with six minutes remaining in the half. Given that the Hawks had missed 28 of their first 34 shots, the wonder was that the deficit wasn’t greater. But the Hawks are excellent on defense, and the Celtics — especially in a half that saw Mike Budenholzer choose to trap Isaiah Thomas on pick-and-rolls and force him to yield the ball — aren’t apt to outshoot anybody.

The Hawks are another matter. The length and breadth of their offense hadn’t been on display in the first four games. Kyle Korver was 1-for-10 from the field in Game 1; the Hawks went the final 5 1/2 minutes of the first quarter without a point in Game 2; Paul Millsap and Al Horford combined for 50 points in Game 4, with Millsap having 45 of those. Even in a tied series, even with the Celtics guarding as if lives were on the line, the feeling persisted that the Hawks were a good shooting night from blowing this series open.

This wasn’t quite that night. As Budenholzer said: “The first quarter it was contagious that we couldn’t make a shot.” But then: “In the second quarter, it got contagious that everyone was making them.”

From that 6-for-34 start, the Hawks made their next 11. They went from trailing by 10 to leading by 10 in four minutes and 51 seconds. With 5:41 remaining in the third quarter, the Hawks led by nine. At quarter’s end, they led by 27. “Once they hit a few shots,” Stevens said, “they steamrolled us.”

We present the list of Hawks who outscored Thomas — who’d had 43 points in Game 3 and hit the clinching trey in Game 4 — this night: Millsap, Korver, Kent Bazemore, Jeff Teague, Mike Scott, Dennis Schroder and …

Kris Humphries, who hadn’t played in Games 1-4 but whose consecutive 3-pointers pushed the Hawks’ lead to 32 in the fourth quarter. (It would crest at 34.) When Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband outscores the Celtics’ best player 8-7, the C’s have no chance.

Every Hawk — except Horford, who missed nine of 11 shots — was tremendous. Bazemore hit three treys in 87 seconds in that second-quarter flurry. Scott made seven of nine shots, scored 17 points and was the best player on the floor. Thabo Sefolosha finished with a plus/minus rating of plus-30. Thomas’ rating was minus-33. He left in the fourth quarter with a mild ankle sprain even as Stevens had a sub waiting at the scorer’s table.

For the Celtics, it was that kind of night. Theoretically they can still win the series, but honesty compels me to report that I can’t see that happening. With all hands on deck, the Hawks were always going to be the better team. Without Avery Bradley, they’re much the stronger side. It didn’t show in Games 3 or 4, but it showed here.

It’s difficult to imagine the Celtics rallying from this to win Game 6 in Boston. It’s unthinkable that they could win a Game 7 back here. Generally speaking, a team trailing 3-2 will take Game 6 only if it truly believes it stands a real chance in the series. After this wipeout, believing will come hard even for the men of Brad. They have to know that the Hawks are bigger and stronger and deeper … and BETTER.

Futher reading: 

In Game 5, the Hawks show Boston who’s boss.

Nobody has more to prove this week than the Hawks’ Budenholzer.

Are the Hawks this good – or the Celtics that bad?

The Hawks look too good for the Celtics.

With Boston down a guard, the Hawks must keep their guard up.

Boston’s best hope lies with baby-faced Brad Stevens.

For a half, the Hawks went whoosh. At the end, they said, “Whew.”

The Hawks hold on to win Game 1, if barely.

The Hawks’ mission: Another shot at LeBron.

An underwhelming Hawks’ regular season ends with a thud.

Reader Comments 0

9 comments
DawgNole
DawgNole

MB: "For the Celtics, it was that kind of night. Theoretically they can still win the series, but honesty compels me to report that I can’t see that happening . . . It’s difficult to imagine the Celtics rallying from this to win Game 6 in Boston. It’s unthinkable that they could win a Game 7 back here."

_______________

History, along with your many years of covering local sports, should compel you to tread lightly when making such boldly optimistic predictions about any ATL team in the postseason.

Rickster_
Rickster_

"Thabo Sefolosha" sounds more like a medical condition than a person's name.

"Well doc, give it to me straight."

"The test shows that you have "Thabo Sefolosha." 

Rickster_
Rickster_

MB :  "but it would be a massive stunner if the Hawks lost this now" 

Oh.. man.... 

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

I really like you MB! I really do! However, when you do these type of articles the team you speak of goes straight to the tank man! Don't predict for the home teams you don't have a good track record no matter the team you predicting for. It is the curse of Bradley! You kill EVERY team in Atlanta when you say something good about them. Keep bashing man please! Don't write good stuff!

DawginLex
DawginLex

@AnsweredTHIS  Yeah we are screwed now. The Bradley curse is about to punch us all in the gut. I want to think that sometime the curse will be broken but that would be like hoping that OHIO grew a brain or was equipped with class.

POV1948
POV1948

Uh-oh.  Bradley predicts for Hawks.  The stink eye of prognostication.

Mirza Usama
Mirza Usama

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DawginLex
DawginLex

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