ATLANTA — Sunday sweep.
A Hub hoop-hockey-hardball hat trick.
I am told this is only the third time in history that the C’s, and B’s both won playoff road games on the same day the Sox won a regular-season roadie, according to Boston Sports Info. That’s three times in the 74 springs the teams have co-existed in Boston. Pretty good.
This could be a great week on Causeway Street. The Celts can eliminate the hungry, young Hawks Tuesday at the Garden and the Spoked-B’s can send the Panthers home for the summer Wednesday. There’ll be closeout sales all around. It’s still early in this playoff spring, but both teams have a golden opportunity to make it to the Finals in June.
The sons of Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens pushed the Hawks to the brink with another near wire-to-wire victory over a stubborn Atlanta team. Atlanta’s last lead was in the fourth minute (11-9), which means the Hawks have not led for a single second of the final three quarters in three of the four games of the series.
Boston led by 32 in Game 1, by 22 in Game 2, and by 9 in Friday’s Game 3 loss in Atlanta. The Celtics’ biggest lead Sunday was a mere 14 points, but it never felt like the Hawks could really threaten.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,’’ Jayson Tatum told NBC Sports Boston. “They got a good team. We just have to suck it up like we did tonight.’’
The Jays (Tatum and Brown) submitted bookend 31-point efforts and were fortified by a monstrous 29 minutes off the bench from Robert Williams III. The Time Lord was a backboard-eating force at both ends, snatching 15 rebounds and blocking two shots to go along with his 13 points.
He is truly a difference-maker.
Trust me when I tell you that none of the TVs in the Atlanta press room were tuned into the B’s or Red Sox when the Hawks and Celtics were getting taped for Sunday’s early evening joust (lucky this wasn’t Georgia’s spring football scrimmage or we’d have had no TV access to NBA action either). Fortunately, through the magic of live streaming, hardcore New Englanders were able to monitor the progress of Boston teams playing in Florida and Milwaukee.
In this spirit, we saw Masataka Yoshida rounding the bases in the Sox’ 12-5 romp at the exact moment that Jake DeBrusk potted a power-play goal to give the Bruins a 2-0 Game 4 lead over the Panthers.
And as we all knew . . . there was no way the Celtics could lose to the 41-41 Hawks a second time. Right?
Friday’s stunning Celtic loss was still on folks’ minds in the hours before Game 4. The Hawks shot an astounding 56 percent in Game 3, their best in a playoff game since Dominique Wilkins roamed the Omni floorboards back in 1988.
“I think we’re going to see a really, really competitive game,’’ said Atlanta coach Quin Snyder. “They are a terrific team, hard to guard.’’
It was competitive. Kind of. Trae Young rallied for 35 points, De’Andre Hunter had 27 and Dejounte Murray 23, but the young bucks simply don’t have enough to overtake Boston’s stars. This entire series reminds me of the older brother-younger brother sparring in the backyard. The old brother places his hand on the forehead of the little bro, and lets the kid wear himself out with wild swings that never connect. It’s not really a contest.
It should be noted that Brown ditched his Zorro mask early in Game 4 after making only 1 of 7 shots. JB made 11 of 15 shots after shucking the mask.
“Maybe it was all in my head,” said Brown. “I took it off and started to turn things around a little bit.’’
Meanwhile, rookie coach Joe Mazzulla continues to go with an eight-man core. He got zero points, but 11 rebounds from Al Horford and 14 (Malcolm Brogdon), 18 (Derrick White) and 19 (Marcus Smart) from his three guards.
“This is possibly our last chance at having this opportunity,’’ said Smart. “Last year [six-game loss to the Warriors in the Finals] taught us that.’’
If the Celtics finish the Hawks Tuesday, they are slotted to play Round 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers, who swept Brooklyn, but lost MVP-candidate center Joel Embiid with an ankle injury in Game 3.
Boston-Philly should be a good series and probably will start Saturday at the Garden if the Celts take care of business. It is unclear when Embiid will be ready, but I’m betting the big fella is on the floor for Game 1.