ATLANTA – Now that’s how you tip off a weekend.
Oh, and a three-game road trip, too.
Friday night couldn’t have gone much better for the Boston Celtics. They got everything they could have hoped for during a 114-96 drubbing of the Hawks in Atlanta.
A blowout win? Check.
Rest for the starters? Check.
Offensive cohesion? Check.
An infusion of confidence? Finally.
This win, and the fashion in which it was logged, was just what the doctor ordered for the men in green. As Aron Baynes said told reporters after the game in the locker room, “It was something we needed.”
Ain’t that a fact.
Boston entered Friday’s matchup having lost seven of its last 10 games, and it’s not as if all of those losses were to title contenders. The C’s were freshly wounded Wednesday night by a Knicks team that entered the teams’ matchup with only four wins on the season. New York led by as many as 26 points during its 117-109 win.
Allowing a similar story to be written Friday night against the Hawks, who carried only three wins into Friday, was unacceptable in the minds of the Celtics. Jayson Tatum said the team had a discussion around what it needed to accomplish against the Hawks as tip-off approached.
“For everybody just to understand where we’re at, and (that) we’re not where we want to be,” he said of the conversation. “And for us to get where we’re trying to get, we’ve got to change, and no better time to change than today.”
They did change, and from the very onset of the game.
The Celtics, who entered the contest ranked 27th in the league in offensive rating, exploded for 45 points during the first quarter, setting a new season high in scoring for any period. They shot 64 percent from the field and tallied 11 assists during the frame while building a 22-point lead.
For 12 minutes, the offense looked as powerful as the C’s dreamed it would look prior to the season tipping off.
“I just thought our pace was really good, starters and bench, in that first quarter,” Brad Stevens said after the game. “I just thought those guys were moving the ball. They were finding the right play.”
Those trends continued throughout the rest of the night, as Boston went on to tie its season high in assists with 31. Its lead never dropped to fewer than 15 points during the final three quarters of the game.
It’s no wonder why positivity was flowing inside of the team’s postgame locker room. For the first time in a week, the Celtics looked like a team to be reckoned with, and all the while, it set itself up for continued success Saturday night in Dallas.
No one on the team played more than 25 minutes Friday night, and Kyrie Irving played less than 20. Al Horford also didn’t play at all as he rested a sore left knee. Horford is expected to return to the lineup Saturday night, and the rest of the team should have plenty of gas left in its tank when it takes the court against the Mavericks on the second night of a back-to-back.
That’s exactly how the C’s would have drawn it up going into Friday’s matchup with Atlanta. They found a rhythm, they dominated the Hawks, they got some rest, and they built confidence all at the same time.
Now all they need to do is carry all of that over into Saturday and make sure that Friday doesn’t go to waste.
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