The Atlanta Hawks bounced back from a disappointing start to the playoffs with a 130-122 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the teams' first-round series. No team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit in the NBA playoffs, and by avoiding that hold the Hawks kept their slim hopes of a comeback alive.
Early on, this game was all Celtics, as they got off to a terrific start from behind the arc with nine 3-pointers in the first quarter. But in the second quarter, the Hawks surged in front with a stunning offensive display, both inside and outside. They shot 17-of-23 from the field in the frame to take the lead at halftime and never trailed again.
Trae Young finished with 32 points, six rebounds and nine assists on 12-of-22 from the field in what was by far his best performance of the series. He was helped by 25 points, six rebounds and five assists from Dejounte Murray and 44 points from the bench. As a team, the Hawks shot 56 percent from the field and made some incredibly tough looks down the stretch to hold off the Celtics' comeback attempt.
Jayson Tatum went for 29 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to lead six different Celtics in double figures. But while they scored at will, the Celtics were unable to get enough stops in this one.
Game 4 is set for Sunday evening in Atlanta.
Hawks display incredible shotmaking
Coming into the series, one of the biggest questions was how the Hawks would be able to match the Celtics' shooting ability. They weren't able to do so in the first two games, and it seemed like the same would be true on Friday when the Celtics hit nine 3s in the first quarter.
After that point, though, the Hawks caught fire and were the better offensive team. They were unconscious in the second quarter when they outscored the Celtics 41-30 to take the lead and never really cooled off. They went 15-of-34 from 3 themselves and 8-of-12 from the mid-range.
Making those numbers even more impressive was the difficulty of the shots they were making. Nothing emphasized that point more than two daggers they hit late in the fourth quarter. As the clock ticked towards two minutes, Trae Young hit a tough step-back 3-pointer over Al Horford.
Then, on the very next possession, Dejounte Murray splashed in a 3 of his own with Derrick White right in his face.
Hawks' rebounding shines again
Rebounding isn't the most exciting aspect of the sport, but it can win games. We saw as much in the first round of the Play-In Tournament when the Hawks pulled off the upset over the Miami Heat thanks in large part to a dominant performance on the glass in which they grabbed 63 rebounds (22 offensive).
The same was true in Game 3 against the Celtics, as the Hawks won the rebounding battle, 57-38. Clint Capela pulled down 11 to set the tone, but the entire team got involved; six players had at least five rebounds. That effort helped the Hawks control the paint on both sides of the ball.
They had 54 points in the paint, compared to 40 for the Celtics, and 23 second-chance points, compared to nine for the Celtics. As great as their shotmaking was, they wouldn't have had as many opportunities without their hard work around the basket.
Trae Young bounces back
The first two games of this series were a disaster for Trae Young. He had a combined 40 points, 14 assists and 10 turnovers on 14-of-40 from the field, and the Hawks were minus-32 with him on the court. The Hawks cannot win with Young playing like that, and it was no surprise they were blown out in both games.
To his credit, Young shook off those rough performances and was one of the best players on the floor in Game 3. He put up 32 points, six rebounds and nine assists on 12-of-22, and more importantly was big in the fourth quarter. He either scored or assisted on 17 of the Hawks' 30 points in the final frame, and made clutch plays time and again to prevent the Celtics from ever re-taking the lead.
The big question now is which version of Young shows up in Game 4. He's going to need to play at least this well again if the Hawks want to even the series, especially considering they likely can't count on the same type of shooting performance from the supporting cast.
End of third quarter: Hawks 100 -- Celtics 93
Both teams cooled off a bit after the break, which is not really a surprise given the pace they were at in the first half, and we'll enter the fourth in the same place we entered the third: Hawks up by seven. This is by far the best the Hawks have played in the series, and they now have a real chance to pick up their first win.
The bench has still been the driving force for the Hawks; they've combined for 39 points on 15-of-19 from the field. As for the Celtics, they've used a balanced attack that has seen six players score in double figures.
End of second quarter: Hawks 74 -- Celtics 67
The Celtics' hot start looks like nothing compared to what the Hawks were up to in the second quarter when they went 17-of-23 from the field to surge in front. Their 74 points are a franchise record for a first half and will ensure that they have a second-half lead for the first time all series.
Bogdan Bogdanovic has come off the bench to score 15 points and lead the Hawks' bench attack which has combined for 35 points. Jayson Tatum, meanwhile, has 17 points to lead the Celtics, who trail despite shooting 15-of-25 from 3-point land.
End of first quarter: Celtics 37 -- Hawks 33
This has been a battle of two styles. The Hawks are attacking the basket as much as possible, and have scored 20 of their 33 points in the paint. On the other end, the Celtics are launching at will from behind the arc and have knocked down nine of them already. Despite the Celtics' hot shooting, they only hold a four-point lead.
Jayson Tatum has 11 points to lead the Celtics, who have had four different players make at least two 3s. That includes Grant Williams, who did not play at all in Games 1 and 2. Saddiq Bey has nine points off the bench to lead the Hawks in the scoring department.