Cedric Maxwell, now part of the Celtics’ broadcast team, has plans when the Celts play Games 3 and 4 against the Hawks in Atlanta this weekend.
“Going to visit with my old friend Dominique [Wilkins],” Max said early Tuesday evening. “I’ll probably go to my favorite shoe store, Friedman’s. Oh, and on Saturday I might have to go to the hardware store to buy a broom.’’
Ah yes. In the event of a sweep, one certainly needs a broom.
The Celtics built another big lead (22 points) and beat the Hawks, 119-106, at TD Garden Tuesday in Game 2 of their first-round, ho-hum playoff series. Derrick White scored 26 for the Green and Jayson Tatum was good for 29. Games 3 and 4 are Friday and Sunday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. If form holds, Boston’s next home game will be Game 1 of the conference semifinals, probably against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Extending this bowser of a first-round series to five or six games would be hoop malpractice. The Hawks are a .500 team (41-41) that somehow beat the Miami Heat in the play-in tournament and demonstrated all of their mediocrity in Games 1 and 2 against the talent-laden Celtics.
The C’s led by 32 in Game 1 and by 22 in Game 2. They did not trail in the final three quarters of either game. This series thus far represents the very definition of toying with your opponent. When the young and hungry Hawks make their runs, the Celtics never feel threatened. A path to the basket is always there. The C’s even roll out Globetrotter moves from time to time. Before the series is over, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Marcus Smart tossing a bucket of water that turns out to be confetti.
Everyone is forced to apply the required lip service before, and after, each game, but there’s too much of a talent gap here to fool anybody.
“We did what we were supposed to do,’’ said White. “We held home court. The real challenge is winning on the road in the playoffs.’’
“You understand you’re up, 2-0, at the same time we know we have to play better and we can play better,’’ said Celtics rookie coach Joe Mazzulla. " . . . I don’t think we’re dominating, I think we’re playing pretty well . . . as good as it feels, we have’t done better because we haven’t controlled the shot margin the way we need to.’’
Mazzulla has gone with a rotation of eight. Luke Kornet got in for the final 48 seconds Tuesday, but eight has been enough the rest of the time. Grant Williams no doubt will be needed to guard Embiid and Giannis down the road, but he’s on the shelf in this series. And Mazzulla sees no reason to change anything.
When I asked the coach if he had any regrets about leaving his stars on the floor when he was up 32 Sunday (they let a 32-point lead shrink to 12), he came back with, “What did you want us to do — push the lead to 52?”
“Yeah,” I offered.
I mean, these are the Hawks.
Atlanta can rebound and Trae Young is an All-Star, but the hungry young Hawks just don’t have enough to stay with the Green. Boston blocked 12 Atlanta shots in Game 2.
Former Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder (named coach of the Hawks Feb. 26) said he’s only had about 12 practices with his team.
Appraising Game 2 before tipoff, he offered, “It’s a road game and it’s hard, and Boston’s pretty good.’’
Despite these factors, the lethargic Celtics let the Hawks shoot to a 22-11 lead in the early minutes. After Mazzulla inserted Robert Williams, Boston went on a 14-0 run to take the lead for keeps. White finished the quarter spectacularly, with a steal, reverse layup, and blocked shot. The block set up Malcolm Brogdon’s buzzer-beating half-court banker, which gave the Celtics a 28-25 lead after one.
It was 61-49 at intermission.
An Al Horford three midway through the third made it 79-59. It took four minutes for the Hawks to cut that lead in half. With 21 seconds left in the third, Boston’s lead was down to 9. The lead swelled to 22 with 2:16 left.
Game 3 is Friday and will be opposite Bruins-Panthers Game 3 on the big flat screen. Only diehard Green Teamers will tune in for more of this.
I told Max I’ll meet him at Ace Hardware in Atlanta.