Everything you need to know about the Celtics’ 122-114 loss to the Atlanta Hawks with BSJ insight and analysis:
Boston Celtics defense took the night off. The Celtics were shorthanded without Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, and Daniel Theis, playing their fifth game in seven nights and also the second night of a back-to-back. It's not a surprise that something gave in this game, and it was their defense. Consistently sloppy and slow, the Celtics gave up an abominable 60 points in the paint.
"I thought our perimeter defense made it really hard on our paint defense," Brad Stevens said after the game. The Celtics were consistently beat off the dribble all night long.
Trae Young closed the door on the Celtics. His 16 points in the fourth quarter crushed any hopes of the Celtics coming back.
"Today was like the Embiid game," Stevens said. "He gets 42, he crushes you. He gets 30, you're right there. And I think that that's more what you were looking at with Trae. You know, we tried all our guards, our guys off the bench all on him, and he’s just a tough cover.”
Young's explosion was inevitable. With zero pressure and poor rotations, it was only a matter of time before his shots started falling.
Atlanta went on a 14-4 run after Grant Williams cut the lead to 94-91 in the fourth quarter, a lead that was too big to overcome. As was the case all night, Boston couldn't get the necessary stops to put a proper run together.
Jayson Tatum: He hit some tough buckets to keep the Celtics close. He also got to the line 11 times, a good sign for a player who needs to get to the line more.
Robert Williams: He punished Hawks defensive mistakes, getting four dunks for all eight of his points. He also added three assists and a block, making a case for getting more minutes in Boston's crowded frontcourt.
Payton Pritchard: The rookie had a rough night. Sure he made some shots, but he was on skates defensively all night long.
"They were targeting him a little bit," Stevens said. "So that's a great experience for him because he's getting some of that, so he’s going to have to learn to deal with that... Payton wouldn't have lasted too long with those five fouls if he kept guarding Trae Young going back into the game.”
Jaylen Brown's shooting: He had a rough night from the field, hitting just six of the 20 shots he took. He did go 8-8 from the line and finish with a team-high seven assists so he did make up for it in other ways.
ONE TAKE KARALIS WILL PROBABLY REGRET LATER
I'm still definitely team "don't panic", but the Celtics defense is definitely a legitimate mess. Yes, the team is tired. Yes, the team is shorthanded. But the Celtics have shown a disinterest in defending throughout the season.
Maybe it will turn around when they're fully healthy, but Stevens has had to go to zone defense a few times this season simply because the man to man wasn't working at all.
Worse, they have shown a shocking lack of hustle back after made baskets, allowing for a disturbing amount of shots at the rim when their defense should be set.
"I think that’s an area that has to improve if you’re going to have any chance of being a good team," Stevens said after the game. "It’s just such a small margin of error for being a good defense or not, and those baskets kill you. So you have to do a better job of that. There’s no doubt about that. I feel like there’s been more of those this year in 28 games or whatever it is than there was (last year)."
The Celtics have a lot of issues that I think can be worked out. This one is a major concern.