Most fans expected the Celtics to win Game Six, but the Atlanta Hawks showed serious character last night, coming into one of the most hostile environments in all of professional sports and dominating a team that has been tougher than most all season. The 2015-16 Boston Celtics were fun to watch and finished 50-38 overall, but ultimately their flaws and injuries did them in as they head into an offseason that is full of possibilities.
The game started slow as both teams were cold, but they both started hitting shots eventually and the Hawks held a 20-17 lead after one. Even though the score was close, there were ominous signs that the game was going to get away from Boston. The ball wasn't moving, the defense didn't look like it had the same intensity as it did in Games Three and Four, and the game had the same feel as the Game Five dumpster fire in Atlanta.
Atlanta led 41-33 at the half, and Boston still had a good chance to get it going offensively and take over the game, but they simply didn't have enough healthy players to contend with a very good Hawks team, a team that moved the ball very well in Games Five and Six and showed that they learned from their mistakes in the playoffs last year. Atlanta may have had a better regular season in 2014-15, but they look more equipped to handle playoff-caliber teams.
The third quarter was awful for the Celtics, and it also made the game very anticlimactic for the fans watching and attending the game. In Game Five, Atlanta scored 44 points in the third quarter, and in Game Six they scored 39 in the third. That is just pathetic defense, but it also shows what Avery Bradley means to this team. When he got hurt, Boston's stifling perimeter defense was cut in half; Marcus Smart still played well defensively, but Isaiah Thomas was exposed.
The main reason for Boston's strong season was perimeter defense; they wouldn't allow penetration, so if teams were going to beat them, they certainly weren't going to do it by driving. Well, eliminate Bradley from the defense and you see what happens- the guards for Atlanta could do whatever they want. Boston just doesn't have the bigs to be able to help when the guards get beat, and that is exactly what you saw happen to Boston in this series.
Boston cut the lead down to 12 at one point with about four minutes to go and appeared to be coming back, but Atlanta was shooting too well to allow the Celtics back into the game. The Hawks had seven players score in double figures, and they also had bench players contribute seven points apiece, so this was an all-around team effort. Once again, the rebounding battle was even, and Boston actually had six-less turnovers than the Hawks, but Boston shot 36% compared to Atlanta's 51%, and that was the story of the series.
The Celtics head into an offseason with a ton of cap space, a coach who's gaining a lot of respect around the league, and a general manager who's determined to get this Boston roster up to a championship level. The season was fun, but the summer may be even better.
FINAL SCORE: ATLANTA HAWKS 104, BOSTON CELTICS 92
ATLANTA WINS SERIES, 4-2
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