The Boston Celtics were down 2-0 when they came home and even without Avery Bradley, the team found ways to take down the Atlanta Hawks twice at home because of their fighter’s mentality.
It is hard not to like this Boston Celtics‘ team. This team was down 2-0 in their series against the Atlanta Hawks heading into Game 3 Friday night and they were without one of their best players in Avery Bradley as well as one of their top three-point shooters in Kelly Olynyk.
None of this mattered; the Celtics ended up putting on a show Friday night and Isaiah Thomas put up a career-high 42 points in a win over the Hawks. Thomas basically carried the Celtics to victory with the help of Evan Turner and Jonas Jerebko, who were new additions to the starting lineup.
Boston then took their momentum from Game 3 and gave Atlanta all it could handle in Game 4. Paul Millsap dropped 45 points Sunday and the Celtics still found a way to win because of a total team effort.
Marcus Smart played incredibly on both ends and showed his defensive versatility by only holding Millsap, Jeff Teague, Kent Bazemore and Kyle Korver to 1-of-10 shooting when he was covering them. Smart also added 20 points, which was second on the team behind Thomas.
Jae Crowder started to play somewhat like himself again in Game 4; he still struggled at times, but he ended up shooting 4-for-11 from the field and 2-of-9 from deep. Crowder was great on defense as well, but if he starts to to pick up his shooting, the Celtics will be in a great position to win this series.
Now, the team is heading back to Atlanta for Game 5 on Tuesday night. Many people counted the Celtics out after the first two games, but the Celtics have put themselves in a great position to win this series because of their refuse-to-lose mentality.
The series is up for grabs right now, tied 2-2 heading into Game 5, but Boston has the momentum. The Celtics somehow found a way to win in Game 4 even with Millsap putting up 45 points (the most points by any player in the 2016 NBA Playoffs). The Celtics have been playing great on both ends ever since coach Brad Stevens changed up the starting lineup and added Jerebko and Turner.
Jerebko and Turner have been huge X-factors for the team on both ends. Jerebko’s first two starts of the season came in the playoffs and he has impressed by averaging 13.0 points per game over the past two games. He recorded double-doubles in Games 3 and 4.
Turner has turned into the second scoring option behind Thomas, and since Bradley went down, Turner is averaging 17.0 points, 6.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.5 blocks per game since he became a starter.
Every player in the starting lineup has stepped up since Bradley was hurt and the team relies heavily on its six-man rotation. Terry Rozier and Jared Sullinger do see the floor, but they have not been great in this series.
If the Celtics want to win this series, they are going to have to keep up their defensive intensity and the same six guys (Thomas, Johnson, Turner, Smart, Crowder and Jerebko) need to keep playing at an extremely high level. Sullinger has looked lost on the court trying to guard either Al Horford or Paul Millsap and Rozier is still not ready to contribute consistently.
The big X-factor still revolves around Crowder, who was much better in Game 4, but if he can get back to way he played during the regular season (14.2 PPG, 44.3 percent shooting from the field, 33.6 percent from deep), then the Celtics can win this series.
The Celtics continue to get knocked down, but they have shown that they are fighters and that they are not going to go down easy. Boston has the momentum, and a win in Game 5 could put the team in a great position to win the series back at home in Game 6.
The Celtics have to win on the road at least once if they want to make it to the next round and Game 5 is the perfect opportunity to do that.