Why Celtics can’t afford to take foot off gas vs. Hawks

The Boston Celtics opened up the 2023 NBA Playoffs with a bang, handling the Atlanta Hawks 112-99 in Game 1 of their first-round series.

From the jump, the C’s looked ready to go. They came out firing and had a massive 74-44 lead at the half, which tied their largest postseason halftime lead in franchise history.

The Celtics lead the Hawks 74-44 at the half, tying Boston’s largest postseason halftime lead in franchise history.

Jayson Tatum already has 21 points, marking his 50th career playoff game with 20+ points. pic.twitter.com/4yG0gWoj69

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 15, 2023

Yet, following the offensive eruption in the first half, the Celtics slowed down. They scored just 20 points in the third quarter and the Hawks even got the lead down to 12 with 3:16 left in the game.

Although Atlanta showed some fight, Boston had too many answers and managed to close out Game 1. The Hawks and Celtics will play Game 2 in Boston on Tuesday, but before the next matchup let’s break down four takeaways from Game 1 and what the C’s can learn from the win.

4. Derrick White should continue to start

For much of last year’s deep playoff run, the Celtics ran a double-big lineup. With center Robert Williams III and veteran Al Horford in the starting five, the Green Team had a great defensive rotation with a fair amount of size.

This season, Boston has opted for a smaller starting lineup, because instead of opening up Game 1 with Williams, the C’s brought out guard Derrick White. While a main reason White has been in the starting five is due to health — he missed zero games in the regular season and Williams sat out for 47 — he has more than earned the spot.

Game 1⃣ starters@DraftKings pic.twitter.com/h8tjvvcyTV

— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 15, 2023

The former San Antonio Spur is having one of the best years of his career, shooting an impressive 38.1% from deep while averaging 12.4 points per game in the regular season. In Game 1 it was more of the same story. White hit four triples (more than anyone on either team) and put up a huge 24 points.

Derrick White will/should be on the All Defensive Team this year.

He played all 82 games this season.

He also just put up 24-5-7 while outplaying Trae Young & Dejounte in game 1.

Good to see him flourishing.

— Eric Salinas (@EricSal_7) April 15, 2023

He also had two blocks as well, showing why he’s swatted more shots this year than any other guard in the NBA.

Your reminder that Derrick White is an All-Defensive 1st Team guard.

He has 73 blocks this season. 23rd most in the league. 1st among guards. pic.twitter.com/2yvzf4sHc6

— Pull up shoot (@NElGHT_) April 1, 2023

With White’s defensive ability and offensive upside, he should be in the starting lineup again on Tuesday night.

3. Robert Williams is looking like himself

Just because White deserves a place in the starting rotation doesn’t mean Williams wasn’t spectacular in Game 1.

The 6-foot-9 center notched 12 points and eight boards while never missing a shot. He also had one of the best blocks of his career early in the game.


(via @NBA)pic.twitter.com/c6VLVraiTk

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 15, 2023

Various injuries hampered Time Lord all season, however, he was looking like his old self in Game 1. His defensive presence makes a significant difference for the C’s, as the Hawks will think twice about attacking the rim while he’s stationed in the paint.

Williams made a big impact on offense as well, which hasn’t been the case for most of the 2022-23 campaign. In a welcome sight for Celtics fans, the 25-year-old was finishing plays with thunderous dunks and leaping for offensive boards with ease.

Rob is feasting pic.twitter.com/Lgphm3rwEk

— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 15, 2023

If this version of Time Lord is present for the rest of the postseason, the Celtics will be in great shape on both sides of the ball.

2. Tatum and Brown are ready to go

The All-Star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown dominated throughout the 2022-23 regular season, but can they do it in the playoffs?

So far, they’ve more than answered the call, as the two combined for 54 points and severely outplayed Atlanta’s best pairing in Trae Young and Dejounte Murray.

Boston defends home court in Game 1

Brown: 29 PTS | 12 REB
Tatum: 25 PTS | 11 REB

Celtics 112, Hawks 99 pic.twitter.com/mzxrqecxEH

— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 15, 2023

While Brown and Tatum accounted for eight of Boston’s 17 turnovers, they led the way for the C’s in Game 1. Being less reckless with the ball will be crucial for the young stars as the postseason progresses.

1. The Celtics can’t afford to take their foot off the gas

Game 1 seemed just about over at halftime. The Celtics were rolling and the Hawks were ice-cold from the field.

Yet, even though the Hawks hit just five triples, they made the game a bit interesting in the second half and ended up losing by “only” 13.

Sure, a double-digit victory is a wide margin to win by, especially in the playoffs. However, the Celtics looked a little too relaxed in the third quarter. It didn’t hurt them in Game 1, but trying to sleepwalk through part of a playoff game could haunt them in the future.

Fortunately, the Celtics recognized their subpar effort in the second half, as head coach Joe Mazzulla made it clear that this was not the best they could play.

Joe Mazzulla thought the Celtics lost their offensive purpose during the second half. He smirked while saying “I’m very concerned.”

“For us to be able to get a win and at the same time know we can play better is good.”

— Jay King (@ByJayKing) April 15, 2023

The Hawks are a better team than what they showed in Game 1, so Boston will have to be prepared for what they bring in a crucial Game 2 on Tuesday.

The post Why Celtics can’t afford to take foot off gas vs. Hawks appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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