The Hawks had lost their last four games and their last seven against the Celtics entering Wednesday night’s contest at the TD Garden. On top of that, they were without their head coach, Lloyd Pierce, who missed the game for the birth of his second child.
That was the other storyline for the Hawks: the seat has never been hotter under Pierce. Atlanta has lost seven of their last eight, causing them to fall out of the playoff picture. If the Hawks were somehow able to break the skid with Nate McMillan calling the shots, would this even further Schlenk’s reasoning to move on from Pierce?
I’m not sure how large a role McMillan played in the win, but Trae Young sure did.
The game started as a track meet, as the Hawks lost their ninth consecutive first quarter but only by two points. They tightened up defensively in the second, limiting the Celtics to just 21 points and outscoring them by eight. They were able to add to their lead in the third, but the first three quarters haven’t been the Hawks’ issue. It’s the fourth period that has given them nightmares.
Entering the game, Atlanta had the worst fourth-quarter differential in the league, but they were able to put those behind them thanks to a late-game explosion from Trae Young. He finished the game with 40 points — 16 of which came in the fourth quarter on 6-7 shooting from the field, putting the team on his back time-and-time again. But the entire team was much more poised down the stretch against a very talented and experienced Celtics squad.
The leading rebounder in the NBA, Clint Capela, pitched in with yet another double-double, scoring 24 points and hauling in 13 rebounds. John Collins also added 20 points, and Cam Reddish played maybe his best game of the year with only 13 points on 5-8 shooting. Those were the only Hawks to score in double-digits. Danilo Gallinari had nine, but it was far from his best performance, and Kevin Huerter finished with seven.
Many will be quick to point the finger at Lloyd Pierce, and perhaps McMillan’s decision-making was a little better down the stretch than Pierce’s, but the Hawks’ primary issues have been injuries, chemistry, and inexperience. Pierce, if a problem at all, isn’t the reason for Atlanta’s recent struggles. However, he will certainly be the scapegoat if things don’t turn around when he’s back on the bench.
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