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Dan Shaughnessy

While you weren’t watching, Celtics get stunned by Hawks in Game 3, and they deserved to lose

Jalen Johnson and the Hawks felt like they were everywhere on Friday night in Atlanta, appearing to play with far more fire than the Celtics, who were seeking a 3-0 series lead.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

ATLANTA — While most of you were watching the Bruins and national hoop pundits seemed to ignore this series altogether, the forever .500 Hawks (41-41 this year) beat the Celtics, 130-122, Friday in Game 3 of their heretofore ho-hum first-round playoff series.

Begging the question: If a Tree Rollins falls in the NBA forest, and nobody is watching, does it make a sound?

Count this veteran observer as one who did not think the Hawks would win a single game against the mighty Celtics in this early round. The Green led by 32 in Game 1 and by 22 in Game 2 and didn’t trail after the first quarter of either game.


But you know the only saying: an NBA playoff series doesn’t start until the road team wins a game.

Now the Celtics will have to wait until Sunday (or later) for that. And they’ve guaranteed that there will be a Game 5 in Boston Tuesday night. Boo.

“I thought we did a good job handling their momentum and their energy throughout the game,’’ said Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla. " . . . Just understanding what went well for us and were we need to get better.’’

Yeesh. Sorry to be so smug, but the Celtics had no business losing a game in this series. And now they’ve got work to do because they got sloppy on defense and thought they could show up and win by standing around the perimeter launching threes. Your Celtics were outrebounded, 48-29 in Game 3.

Now they are in a series — while their assumed next opponent (Philadelphia) holds a 3-0 lead over the Nets.

The Celts enjoyed a 9-point lead in the first quarter (9 of 16 from international waters), but the Hawks kept plugging and down the stretch it was Atlanta’s Trae Young (32 points) and Dejounte Murray (25) making the big shots, while Boston’s fabled Jays went cold. Jaylen Brown scored only 15 (0 for 4 on threes).


The first two games of this series didn’t remind anybody of Ali-Frazier, nor Red Sox-Yankees, circa 2003-04. You could cut the tension in the first two Celtic wins with a big old wooden spoon.

In my Atlanta hotel room Friday, I had ESPN on for about nine hours while I studied the Bible, and not once did any of the anchors, hosts, or feisty panelists mention this series. Truly. Two words never uttered on the Worldwide Leader: “Celtics” and “Hawks.’’

The inimitable Stephen A. Smith — a man whose head can explode just talking about how his steak was prepared — had nothing to say about the first two games of Celtics-Hawks or the “big” Game 3 to be played. There was plenty of discussion about the Warriors winning without Draymond, Good Night (Nick) Nurse in Toronto (Ime Udoka could be in the mix to replace Nurse), and lots of talk about various Sixers kicking and punching Nets in the you-know-whats. There were a few thousand opinions on next week’s NFL Draft. But not a word about Brown’s hand or Derrick White’s headband.

I sensed it was hardly different back home in Boston. New Englanders have high hopes for both the Celtics and Bruins, and we’ve waited a long time for these playoffs, but while the Celtics were playing Game 3 with a cushy, 2-0 series lead, the Bruins were in Florida fighting for their lives after a shocking split of the first two games in Boston. I’m betting most of sports-minded Greater Boston households were locked in on the B’s when 7:30 rolled around.


Celtics-Hawks Game 3 was dumped into the non-coveted 7 p.m. slot for a second straight game, and NBC Sports Boston opted to go without a real play-by-play announcer, dispatching ex-players Brian Scalabrine and Eddie House to carry the load. Mercy.

“We’re down 0-2, so obviously it’s a big game,’’ said Hawks coach Quin Snyder. " . . . I don’t think anybody’s lost any confidence.’’

Credit to the hungry Hawks. They wanted it more and they got it.

As for the Celtics, well, when you give up 130 and get outrebounded by 19 to a .500 team, you deserve the loss.

Boston’s quest for two titles puts them on the verge of making history
Sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy joined us with this championship double dip.

More Celtics-Hawks coverage

Washburn: Celtics came to play in Game 3, they just didn’t come to rebound

Story of the game: Joe Mazzulla expected ‘a big punch’ from Hawks, and that’s exactly what Celtics were hit with

Instant analysis: What went wrong for Celtics

Box score: Hawks 130, Celtics 122

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him @dan_shaughnessy.