The Boston Celtics had a clear-cut chance to take a 3-0 stranglehold on their series with the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night, but instead, they lost 130-122 and now head into Sunday in serious need of a win before heading back to Beantown. Trae Young finally went off and cooked the C’s while Joe Mazzulla’s squad struggled to produce offensively in the second half.
The Celtics are still in a good position, but they must respond in Game 4 and play a lot better on both ends. Most importantly, they need to lock down Trae again, who scored only 40 points through the first two games. For reference, he balled out for 32 in Game 2. Marcus Smart, who had a season-high 24 points in the defeat, may not suit up Sunday after falling on his tailbone. If he’s unavailable, a collective effort from everyone up and down the roster is an absolute necessity.
Below, we’ll discuss the three players most to blame for the Game 3 loss.
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How can you blame the best player who still had 29 points on the night? Well, there are reasons. Tatum had a great first half, scoring 17 points in 4 for 6 shooting. The final two quarters? Just 12 points including three of his four turnovers while going 0 for 5 from three-point land. One of his mishaps also came late in the fourth when Boston has the opportunity to rally as he stepped out of bounce. It’s common knowledge the Celtics rely on Tatum offensively, especially down the stretch. In a game that was incredibly close, the team needed him to step up and produce. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The All-Star went ice cold. It happens.
The second part of the C’s star duo, Jaylen Brown had a quiet evening. He registered a mere 15 points in 33 minutes of action and finished with a -4 rating. Brown had three turnovers as well and only took 15 shots in total on the night, failing to drain any of his four triples. Was it an awful showing? No. However, Brown averaged 26.6 PPG during the regular season. The Celtics might be able to get past the Hawks without Brown playing at his very best, but if they’re going to make a title run, the guard has to be a lot better, just like he was in last year’s playoffs. Perhaps his hand is still bothering him. Nevertheless, Brown has to be more aggressive in Game 4.
Al Horford has been starting at the five lately over Robert Williams. That being said, he didn’t do much in Game 3 against his former team. The Dominican put up eight points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out three assists. Horford shot just 2 for 6 from long range, too. The Celtics were killed on the glass by the tune of 48-26 and Horford is partly to blame for it. Clint Capela bodied him down low with 11 boards.
Through the first three games of the series, Horford hasn’t given Boston much, especially offensively. He’s amassed just 22 points and only eight rebounds across the last two outings. Winning the battle on the boards is absolutely crucial and right now, he isn’t doing so. This comes down to Williams as well, but Horford is the one starting at the moment. The veteran must set the tone and make his presence felt down low with more physicality on both ends of the hardwood.
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