Monday, April 17, 2023

Celtics defense proves to be impactful in Game 1 win over Hawks

The Celtics defense returned to peak form in their 112-99 Game 1 victory at TD Garden over the weekend.

Atlanta was held to 38.8% shooting from the field, including just 5-of-29 from the behind the arc.

Boston set the tone early by limiting the Hawks to just 19 points in the first quarter and Trae Young, who finished with a mere 16 points, never got going offensively.

Marcus Smart and Derrick White each shared the responsibility of guarding Young, as he was 5-of-18 from the floor and 1-of-5 from deep.
"He was physical," head coach Joe Mazzulla said of Smart during his postgame presser. "His pick-up points were great. He has a presence to be the quarterback on the defensive end, where we can change coverages, change matchups. And when he does that, our defense is special. It starts with him. I thought he brought it both physically and mentally."
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year had one of his better games on the other side of the ball, racking up seven rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocks to go along with his 11 points and seven assists on the night.

White on the other hand collected five rebounds, had two steals and two blocks, but also contributed with 24 points and seven assists too boost the Celtics backcourt on both ends of  the floor.

Despite Boston dominating on the glass 58-45, the Hawks were able to swallow up 14 offensive boards and get many second chance opportunities. While it didn't come back to bite the C's throughout Saturday's win, the defending Eastern Conference champions understand that has to be an area to improve on come Game 2.
"Rebounding is the key to this series," said Jaylen Brown in his postgame comments. "That's been a point of emphasis for us in every practice. Try to keep those guys off the glass. They're young, they're athletic, and they crash hard. That's going to continue to be our challenge during this series. Just keeping those guys off the glass is tough. They got some great rebounders on their team."
Another note of the Celtics' interior defense was the play of Robert Williams, who made it tough for the Hawks in the paint during his 22 minutes off the bench. Besides notching 12 points on a perfect 6-of-6 from the field, the veteran big man grabbed eight rebounds to go with a block and a steal.
"Just his presence at the rim on both ends of the floor," Mazzulla said of Williams. "I thought he did a good job protecting us in the paint, especially in the first half. And I thought he did a great job of keeping the spacing and creating the right screens and angles for our guys. And so, when we have that vertical threat, that really helps us. He really helps us with the rim protection as well."
The Celtics will look to tighten up their defense even more so when the host the Hawks Tuesday night at the Garden and take a commanding 2-0 series lead in their best-of-7 first-round series. NBA TV has the tip-off at 7:00 ET.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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