The Celtics’ slow start in Game 1 was blamed on jitters. Their slow start in Game 2 was blamed on old fashioned poor play. In Game 3 there will be no excuse for a slow start as the Garden crowd will be in a frenzy. Friday’s game (8 p.m., CSNNE, ESPN2) will be the first home postseason contest in the Brad Stevens era in which the Celtics actually have a legitimate chance of winning a series, so expect C’s fans to bring it vocally (they’ll have plenty of time to get lubricated with the later-than-usual tip time of 8 p.m.).
“My optimism [in regards to the Celtics’ chances] comes from knowing these guys and knowing how hard they compete,” Celtics president of basketball ops Danny Ainge told 98.5 FM. “I’m excited to see what we can come up with and the energy we can muster for Game 3 and Game 4. Atlanta won on their home court, which is what they’re supposed to do, and now we have to do the same.”
The Celtics finished the 2015-16 regular season with a 28-13 record on Causeway Street. The Hawks were a decent road team, having gone 21-20 this season.
No matter the location, though, the Celtics need to solve the major problems that are Al Horford and Paul Millsap.
Horford was a beast for Atlanta in Game 2 as he put up 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting and pulled down 12 rebounds. The Hawks’ “center” wasn’t as impressive in Game 1 (17 points, five rebounds) but he did show his range in that game. The 6-foot-10 inch Horford hit three of his four shots from deep in Atlanta’s one-point win. Three-point shooting is not an unusual thing for Horford, who attempted five or more 3-pointers in single games 17 times during the regular season.
Say this for the Celtics in that atrocious Game 2 performance – they finally did a decent job on Millsap. The “Celtics killer” scored just four points in 34 minutes Tuesday night. The C’s forced him into plenty of bad shots as he finished the game 0-for-5 from 3-point land and 1-of-12 overall from the floor.
The Celtics’ front court is decidedly weak, which underscores the fact that this is a brutal matchup for Boston, but the C’s need quality minutes from guys like Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller if they’re going to get back in this series.
Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) is questionable to play in Game 3. He did not play in Game 2. Ainge said that Avery Bradley’s hamstring strain, suffered in Game 1, wasn’t as bad as initially feared but that the guard would not likely return in the Hawks series.