Final: Celtics 114, Hawks 122 – Trae Young put defenseless Celtics away

The Boston Celtics could not defend the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night in the TD Garden. There were certainly plenty of reasons for giving up 57% shooting overall and a 40 point night to Trae Young. They are a tired team missing three starters playing on a back-to-back. Without Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, and Daniel Theis, the Celtics tried to out-offense the Hawks can they just couldn't. They didn't roll over in this one like they have in the past, and they made multiple runs to cut into Atlanta's lead, but their defense was just too abysmal to overcome.

WHO: Celtics (14-13) vs. Hawks (11-16)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: TD Garden.
RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub
TV: NBC Sports Boston


Fourth quarter

  • Jayson Tatum has committed a couple of bad turnovers. This might be because he's trying to do too much, but he also could benefit from tightening up his handle
  • The possession where Grant Williams was stuck in the corner and no one moved to help him so he had to flick up a bad shot is this Celtics team in a nutshell right now. Either too tired or too unwilling to make the right play
  • Trae Young seems to be closing out the Celtics late with an array of shots, and it was simply a case of him gladly taking advantage of whichever huge error the Celtics committed. Poor switch? He hit the open jumper. Miscommunication on a pick and roll? He laid it in.

Third quarter

  • The Celtics tried a zone to stop all of the dribble penetration. Trae Young immediately drilled a long 3. A couple minutes later, Kevin Huerter hit one
  • Jayson Tatum's shot-making is carrying the Celtics and keeping them close on an off-night (so far) from Jaylen Brown (2-10 at the 7:22 mark). The Celtics are in danger, though, of watching this one slip away
  • Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum connected on a backdoor cut. Without the numbers in front of me at the moment, I'd say the Celtics are at the bottom of the league in cuts.
  • The Celtics cut the lead to 4 but they simply can't get stops necessary to make a big run. Their zone is giving up 3's and their man is giving up drives. The Celtics are scoring enough but they simply can't stop anything Atlanta is doing.

Second quarter

  • Payton Pritchard plays with a lot of poise. He's not afraid to attack and also not afraid to pull it out and reset if things don't materialize
  • The Celtics are really sloppy at the ends of defensive possessions and they're giving up too many second chances
  • The Celtics hit a drought in the second quarter, going 4:21 without a field goal and falling behind by 7 points before Javonte Green hit a 3 to calm things down
  • This first half shot chart from the Hawks is inexcusable. All of those baskets in the restricted area is an indictment of the Celtics defense so far. Atlanta has 40 points in the paint in the first half.

First quarter

  • Brad Stevens made the interesting choice to not start a point guard in the absence of Kemba Walker. This gives Boston some size against Trae Young, and preserves the younger rookie Payton Pritchard to provide some offense without having to worry about chasing Young all over the floor.
  • Neither team is stopping each other at the moment. The Celtics are doing a good job on Young, but losing everyone else and giving up layups
  • The Celtics have a bad habit of giving up looks at the rim in transition after their own makes. They are not getting back and setting their defense
  • Celtics are getting early contributions from everyone. All eight players who took the court in the first 8:30 have scored
  • Payton Pritchard and Robert Williams always seem to connect on an alley oop when they share the floor


G: Jayson Tatum
G: Jaylen Brown
SF: Javonte Green
PF: Semi Ojeleye
C: Tristan Thompson


G: Trae Young
G: Kevin Huerter 

F: Cam Reddish
PF: John Collins
C: Clint Capela 

The Boston Celtics (14-13, 14-13 ATS) begin a two-game series at TD Garden against the Atlanta Hawks (11-16, 13-14 ATS), with the back end of a back-to-back tonight at 7:30 EST.

Kemba Walker will sit as part of his knee management program. Daniel Theis is out again after spraining his right index finger in Washington, with Marcus Smart (calf) and Romeo Langford (wrist) still down.

The Hawks are without Rajon Rondo (back), Kris Dunn (knee), De'Andre Hunter (knee) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee).

According to the online sports book Betonline.ag, the Celtics are 2.0 point favorites

  • Celtics vs. Hawks spread: Celtics -2
  • Celtics vs. Hawks over-under: 221 points
  • Celtics vs. Hawks money line: Celtics -134, Hawks +114

The Skinny 

The Hawks have lost 7-of-8 as injuries mount and they continue their years-long search of defensive inconsistency. Trae Young is reminiscent of prime Isaiah Thomas, giving up as much as he scores, with a net +1 rating per 100 possessions.

Young has taken 17.6 shots per game and only converted 41.7% from the field and 36.4% from three. Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish and John Collins are similarly dynamic, but not efficient or overly impactful defensively. The Hawks rank 23rd in effective field goal percentage at 51.8%.

Clint Capela, however, has aided their defense by turning away shots at the rim. Opponents shoot 45.6% from the field (8th) and 34.1% from three (2nd). They do compete in the worst division in basketball and struggle on the defensive boards.

In turn, Atlanta is adept at offensive rebounding (24.7%, 6th) and shoots a free throw on 29.9% of their field goal attempts (2nd). They'll inflict over 20 fouls per game on their opponents. This team is a net neutral, with a 113 offensive and defensive rating.


No Kemba Walker hurts against a weak defense and there's no certain player to start in his spot. Payton Pritchard looked better off the bench than he did with the starters in Friday's spot start where he struggled against Detroit.

Jeff Teague has been bad all season and could simply stagger minutes into the bench. That seems less concerted than giving someone like Tremont Waters a chance against Young like he got against De'Aaron Fox.

This is another game where Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum should get what they want against weaker wing defenders. Capela is a different kind of interior defender than Nikola Jokic though, so Boston will need to continue to move and pass to create quality looks.

The worry here is Atlanta can score into the 110s and above on certain nights rolling out of bed. The Celtics have been stuck closer to 100 as their offense dips into the bottom half of the league. Boston's defense has raised its level to top-6 level in points per game (109), with a +1.3 net rating. The margin for error is slim, particularly without Walker, to keep up offensively.

Boston 112, Atlanta 111 (13-9, 9-11 ATS)