Celtics Lose to Hawks in First Round of NBA Playoffs
by Nia Atkins on Friday, May 13th, 2016
If you were a Celtics fan growing up, then you probably remember Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce — aka the “big three.” You probably remember Rajon Rondo and Doc Rivers. You remember the big Celtics-Lakers rivalry. You remember losing some games, but winning some more. You remember playing in the Eastern Conference Finals often, but always the playoffs. And, most of all, you remember the 2008 championship win.
If you’ve kept up with the Celtics since then, you know that things have changed a lot. Instead of hearing names like “Paul Pierce” and “Doc Rivers”, you hear “Avery Bradley” and “Brad Stevens.” With the departure of the big names went the big wins as well. Now, in 2016, the Celtics certainly aren’t a bad team, but their recent exit from the first round of the playoffs dampened the moods of Celtics fans everywhere.
The composition of this year’s team, led by third year coach Brad Stevens, was certainly solid. Key returners such as Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, and Isaiah Thomas lead the team to a solid season even with its ups and downs. They started with a win over the 76ers, but soon fell to a 1-3 record. They won a few more games and hovered around .500 for a month until they turned a blowout loss at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks into a hot run and won six of their next eight games. This pattern of hot streaks and slumps continued throughout the season. On April 3rd, they officially clinched a playoff spot with a win against the Lakers. They rounded out the regular season with a respectable 48-34 record: their best record since 2011-2012. They also ranked second in their division and fifth in their conference. For the second straight season the five-seeded Celtics qualified for the playoffs.
The Celtics’ first and only playoff opponent was the Atlanta Hawks. As mentioned previously, the Celtics and Hawks had met before, in the regular season. Heading into the series, the Hawks held a 3-1 advantage over the Celtics. The teams are similar in their versatility, depth, and mentality, so fans of both sides anticipated a close matchup. With that said, the Celtics and Hawks have met three times in recent playoff history, and, although the Celtics knocked the Hawks out in both 2008 and 2012, the Celtics’ combined road record in those two series was 1-5. Unfortunately for the Celtics, they didn’t hold home court advantage in this matchup.
The first game started off poorly for the Celtics, who found themselves down by 17 after the first half. As Brad Stevens’ Celtics often do, they mounted a comeback in the second half before ultimately losing 102-101. The fourth quarter brought the most heartbreaking moment when shooting guard Avery Bradley suffered a hamstring injury that would keep him sidelined for the remainder of the series. Still rattled from the loss of Avery Bradley, the Celtics played a poor second game and lost 89-72. The third and fourth games were much more hopeful and exciting for Celtics fans. With a few strategical line up switches and a couple of fantastic games from Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics were able to win both of their home games — including game four’s intense overtime battle. Unfortunately, the momentum stopped as soon as they went back to Atlanta. The Celtics simply couldn’t find a way to beat the Hawks away from home; they consequently lost their next two games and ended their playoff run.
So what now? Although the season didn’t end quite how we all hoped it would, the Celtics have the potential to make some additions to their roster that would benefit them next year. We won’t know where the Celtics’ first draft pick stands until May 17, but it can’t be lower than sixth. They might draft a few promising college players or they might acquire a veteran like Kevin Durant in free agency. The Celtics, as they’ve done the past few years, will almost certainly be even better next year. Maybe they will even get revenge on the Hawks.
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