BOSTON-Ten observations from Celtics 119, Hawks 110 . . .
1. The Hawks played a great first half against the top team in the East (sans star point guard Kyrie Irving) for a 55-53 lead at the break. Then the Hawks played an awful third quarter and Terry Rozier, Irving's replacement, erupted for 14 of his career-high 31 points. Even without Irving and rotation forward Marcus Morris the Celtics were just too good and too deep for the Hawks. The Celtics also routed the Knicks on Wednesday without Irving.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer pregame: "They are a team that executes well on both ends of the court regardless who is there. With him they are pretty amazing but I think they showed the other night they can be just as good with whoever it is that plays."
2. Irving is Boston's leader in points per 36 minutes Morris is No. 2. That pressure on Boston’s middling offense. But Irving probably is the weakest link for the NBA’s most efficient defense and Rozier is a much better defender. Morris is a very good rebounder but otherwise not much of a defender. The Celtics still had the bodies to defend well.
3. That’s why it’s significant that the Hawks scored 55 points on 41 shots in the first half. Schroder was the main catalyst while showing no ill effects from the shoulder injury he suffered against Charlotte on Wednesda. He had two sloppy turnovers within the first five possessions and then missed a pair of floaters. But Schroder got on track from there and scored seven consecutive points during a 14-0 run that put the Hawks up 21-14.
4. But the Hawks' offense fizzled in the third quarter.: 6-for-22 on field goals, with Schroder 1-for-6 and Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova both 0-for-3. There were a few unlucky shots that rimmed out but, for the most part, the Hawks seemed disjointed and rushed while struggling to create quality shots.
5. Meanwhile Rozier, fresh off a triple-double in his first career start, made all three of his three-point attempts in the third period and speedy wing Jayson Tatum scored eight of his 27 points. The Celtics led by 19 points going into the fourth.
6. The Hawks got within 10 in the fourth quarter in large part because of Taurean Prince (15 points in the period). But then Rozier made another three-pointer and Jasyon Tatum stole the ball from Ersan Ilyasova and glided for a fast-break dunk and the Hawks couldn't get the lead under 13 before surrendering. Budenholzer pulled all starters except Prince after Schroder's turnover led to a Tatum and-1 for a 115-97 lead.
7. This was a great night in Prince’s on-again, off-again production: career-high 31 points on just 17 shots (5-for-9 on threes, 8-for-8 on free throws). Before the game, Prince was named to the Rising Stars game as an injury replacement. He said he wanted to be voted to the team initially but was happy to be joining John Collins in the showcase game during All-Star weekend. Maybe he was proving a point tonight.
8. Budenholzer was heated after Dewayne Dedmon was pushed to the floor in the first quarter with no foul called and stayed there as play continued. He earned a technical foul just before calling a timeout and was still arguing during the break with official Gediminas Petraitis. Assistant coach Darvin Ham continued the discussion with official Brian Forte. Maybe I'm imagining things but it seemed as if the Hawks got a few more whistles after that.
9. Ilyasova offered little offensive production (seven points on seven shots in 25 minutes) but did a good job hounding Al Horford. Ilyasova crowded Horford and held his ground when Horford tried to back him down to the post. At one point, Horford grew so frustrated that he shoved Ilyasova out of the way, earning an offensive foul.
10. John Collins is a good shot blocker because of his outstanding athleticism and good timing. But in this game his relatively short wingspan was noticeable as he tried to defend the basket. On a handful of shots at the rim Collins was in good position, got vertical without fouling but opponents dropped in baskets just over his outstretched hands.
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