The Atlanta Hawks entered Sunday’s game with 23 wins, and the third worst record in the NBA. So despite a tough regular season, this game still had plenty of lottery implications for Mike Budenholzer’s team. The Boston Celtics on the other hand were continuing to prepare their shorthanded troops for the playoffs with just three games remaining on their schedule. Atlanta was able to grind out a win at TD Garden 112-106, hindering their odds for the number three overall pick.
The Hawks got off to a slow start, beginning this one 2/10 from the field with 4 turnovers. Jayson Tatum got off to a hot start for the Celtics, scoring 7 points in the first five minutes, outscoring the Hawks by himself at the 6-minute mark of the first quarter.
After his strong performance on Friday night, Jabari Bird got the early nod off the bench. He provided another productive stretch, getting the job done on the offensive glass and would ultimately finish with 9 points (4/5 FG) and 5 rebounds in 21 minutes of action. This is definitely worth noting, as he received minutes today over Abdel Nader. Reminder: Bird is on a two-way contract, which means he is not eligible for the postseason, unless the Celtics cut someone from the active roster and sign him to an NBA deal.
It was clear that Brad Stevens was testing his playoff formula, rotating Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin on and off the ball, while working in guys like Semi Ojeleye into a more rotation-based role. Plagued by injuries, the Celtics will have to win as a team from here on out. They finished the first half with 18 assists and just four turnovers. The Hawks might not be the league’s best team, but it was a sharp first half for Boston nonetheless.
The Celtics went with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier and Al Horford for the majority of the third quarter, as Stevens elected to sit them out for the fourth. This was tough luck for Rozier, who ended the third quarter one assist and two rebounds shy of a triple-double. Atlanta took advantage while the Celtics rested their starters, and was able to get the upper hand down the stretch.
A major bright spot from Sunday was Ojeleye’s continuous development. He sparked an 9-2 run to start the fourth quarter, in what was arguably his best offensive game of the season. Over the last few games, he’s looked comfortable and confident on the floor, which is a great change from earlier in the year. Ojeleye finished with a career-high 13 points. He’ll be a major factor for the Celtics off the bench this postseason.
Jayson Tatum and Al Horford led the way with 19 points and 16 points, respectively. Greg Monroe added 17 points, his third straight game with 15+ points. The Celtics combined for 33 assists and shot 51.9% from the field.
Boston now heads to Washington to face off against the Wizards on Tuesday night.
Here’s Greg Monroe on moving forward without key contributors: