ATLANTA — Injured Celtics Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon, and Robert Williams were on the bench in street clothes. Jaylen Brown spent much of the night alongside them due to foul trouble. Jayson Tatum was on the court plenty, but he started the game by air-balling a 3-pointer and his shooting improved only marginally after that.
On the road, against the talented Hawks, this should have been a fateful combination. Instead, the Celtics simply shrugged and plowed forward with what they had. They buried Atlanta with a barrage of 3-pointers by secondary options who certainly looked more like headliners.
When the dust cleared, the scoreboard displayed the result of the carnage: Boston 126, Atlanta 101.
It was the Celtics’ eighth win in a row, and given the circumstances, it might have been their most impressive one yet.
“Our depth allows us to play a lot of different ways, and guys have fun doing it and work hard together,” coach Joe Mazzulla said. “We’ve got to fight to keep it that way. It’s all about the guys and their ability to adapt and adjust and play hard and play together.”
Seven Celtics scored 14 points or more, and three of them — Sam Hauser, Luke Kornet and Payton Pritchard — came off the bench to do it.
Kornet, who entered training camp without a guaranteed contract, finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Hauser and Pritchard combined to drill 9 of 12 3-pointers. If there are weak links on this Celtics roster, opponents are certainly doing a crummy job of identifying them.
“I think it shows we’ve got a really good team and we’re really deep,” Hauser said. “We’ve got a lot of guys coming off the bench who can really play.”
The Celtics’ top-ranked offense continues to be defined by its effective and relentless long-range shooting. After connecting on 21 of 46 attempts Wednesday, Boston is now making a league-leading 15.9 3-pointers per game.
There is probably some good fortune mixed in with the numbers, and the approach will likely shift at least slightly when Williams, who is generally only a threat in the paint, returns. But president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has constructed a roster that is overflowing with shooters.
Mazzulla and several players said the quality of the shots they are getting — wide-open looks that are the result of good spacing and ball movement — has been even more encouraging than the results.
“We’re playing for each other,” Hauser said, “and trying to get others open.”
Brown (22 points) said that against the Hawks, it sometimes seemed as if the Celtics were not even shooting very well. But then he realized that was just because the long-range shots were so wide open that the misses became more glaring.
“We’ve got a style of ball that we’re trying to play, and every guy is ready when their number is called,” Brown said. “You can’t ask for more.”
The Celtics (12-3) made 54.5 percent of their shots overall, despite Tatum (19 points) going just 6 for 19. With Smart (ankle) and Brogdon (hamstring) sidelined, Derrick White started at point guard and registered 16 points and 10 assists while having an impactful defensive game, too.
Trae Young finished with 27 points to lead the Hawks, but was never in control. Atlanta (9-6) made just 7 of 32 3-pointers. Mazzulla said that perhaps his favorite moment of the game came when he went to a bench lineup in the first half and the unit instantly played a precise, near-perfect defensive possession. It was an example of both the depth and the preparedness.
“Our guys focused and they executed,” Mazzulla said, “and when you make something an emphasis, they do a great job of it.”
The Celtics led by as many as 16 points in the first half, but the start of the third quarter was mildly concerning. The Hawks went on a run that appeared likely to get worse for Boston after Brown went to the bench with his fourth foul at the 10:38 mark, with his team leading, 65-58.
But the Celtics regained control with a 22-9 run and had no reason for concern after that.
“That’s just the team we have,” White said. “We trust every person on this roster, and when they come in, they do good things for us.”