The Celtics needed to come out with a win last night in Atlanta and they came out swishing, not missing. Paul Pierce made it clear from the get go that he was going to carry the scoring load. Pierce created his own offense, and forced the Hawks to pay closer attention to him which opened up other scoring chances.
Paul Pierce even pulled downed 14 rebounds! This really was his game. He put his stamp on the game as if he was the postal service and his poise rubbed off on the rest of the team. Kevin Garnett showed flashes of offensive and Avery Bradley played an efficient game. Sasha Pavlovic even came in and while he didn't do much to fill the stat sheet, he made some integral plays on the defensive end to get the Celtics over the hump.
If the Celtics can consistently bring the kind of effort seen in game two throughout this series, there's no reason they shouldn't beat the Hawks. A key difference from game one and game two was the Celtics free throw attempts. The Celtics had 18 more free throw attempts in game two (in game one they had 13 FT's attempted, while in game two they had 31). Getting to the foul line with regularity is major for the Celtics. It slows the pace down, allows them to setup their defense and forces the Hawks to play halfcourt offense.
Free throw attempts by the Celtics will be a barometer for how this series unfolds. Why? When you look at the Celtics free throw attempts, you can start to understand how fast or slow the game was played. If the Celtics get into the mid 20's and higher from the foul line, they'll force a large portion of the next Hawk possessions to be halfcourt offense (depending upon how well they shoot from the line. In game two they shot about 84%.) As stated earlier, the Celtics want to play a slower game, it allows their legs to rev up and benefits their offensive system.
Are the Hawks a force to be reckoned with? Sure, they're quick, athletic and get hot from the outside a bunch at home. Problem is the Celtics are more seasoned, hungry and capable of stealing road games.
Throw Rajon Rondo back into the mix with this Celtics squad and you have a strong team. Assuming they bring it every night, keep the games pace largely in their favor and get multiple offensive contributors, they're the better team. While loving the Hawks bounciness and stupidity is easy, it's hard to bet against old reliable. The Celtics know what they need to do and come Friday they'll got out and get it done, just like mom's Volvo got you to soccer practice.