The Boston Celtics took care of business in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, as they rather effortlessly claimed a 112-99 victory Saturday afternoon. Though the second-seeded C’s are heavily favored to win this quarterfinals matchup, Hawks star Trae Young is looking for ways to defy the odds.
During a post-game media session, the point guard was asked by reporters what, in specific, he believes his team needs to do in order to put themselves in a better position to beat the Celtics heading into Game 2. In response, Young noted that their production from beyond the arc will ultimately be a major factor in the club’s pursuit of a win.
“3-point shooting. We made five, they made 13. We just got to be better at shooting and I think we will. I think we got some good looks. We just got to figure out how to get more of those good looks and shoot them with confidence,” Trae Young said.
The Celtics dominated in seemingly all facets of Game 1, but especially in the shooting department as they converted on 47.7% of their attempts from the field and 39.4% from deep while Atlanta shot just 38.8% from the floor and a lackluster 17.2% from deep.
Trae Young personally led the way in the inefficient shooting department for the Hawks, as he held the team’s lowest field goal percentage of 27.8% from the field and converted on just one of his five 3-point attempts in 34 minutes played.
Trae Young Opens Up on Defensive Game Plan Against Celtics
As Trae Young noted, 3-point shooting has and will play a major role throughout this first-round series. For the Celtics, about 35% of their 112 points came from shots made from distance.
When discussing defensive adjustments Atlanta needs to make moving forward in this first-round series, Young stated that Boston needs to be forced to make tough shots inside the arc.
“You got to try to force them to take tough twos,” Young said. “Not over helping too much, because that’s when they get wide-open threes and good looks at the three-point line. But we got to do a better job collectively at staying in front of our man and not them get layups. Because if let them get all into the lane for layups, then we got to help, and that’s how they get open threes. So we got to figure out how to just stay in front of our man and then not let them get easy looks”
The objective of trying to take away the long ball from the Boston Celtics is certainly a smart game plan for an opposing ball club, as Joe Mazzulla’s squad is heavily reliant on the 3-point shot. Throughout the 2022-23 season, they ranked second in 3-point attempts per game (42.6) and converted at the sixth-highest rate (37.7%).
Unfortunately for the Hawks, however, even if they did somehow manage to accomplish such a challenging feat, guarding the Celtics inside the arc will also prove to be a rather difficult challenge, as they boast the fifth-best 2-point field goal percentage in the NBA at 56.7%.
Celtics Star Jayson Tatum Heaps Praise Upon Marcus Smart
As much as one can argue that poor offensive possessions and lacking confidence in their shot resulted in Atlanta’s poor shooting night, it’s no surprise that such a lowly performance came against the league’s second-best defensive club in the Celtics and, in the eyes of superstar Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart is the driving force of their studly unit.
During his post-game media session Saturday night, the wing couldn’t help but heap praise upon the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year for his impeccable efforts and dedication on the less glamorous side of the ball.
“I guess sometimes you take it for granted,” Tatum said. “But, you know, one of the best if not the best defender that we have in this league, and you know, just extremely special, especially on that side of the ball. And you know, shows it night in and night out.”
In 32 minutes played, Marcus Smart finished Game 1 against Atlanta with an impressive all-around stat line of 11 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks while shooting 50% from long range.