It took 42 points from Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas, but Boston gets by Atlanta in Game 3 to force a Game 5. With the 111-103 victory against the Hawks, the Celtics gave fans a reason to have hope and believe that Boston could at the very least make this an unforgettable series even if eliminated from playoff contention. Everyone stepped up, including the rookies, Terry Rozier and RJ Hunter. Their contributions and the time they spent on the floor, allowed key players to rest, and their production on both ends of the floor certainly didn’t go unnoticed.
For the first time in the series, things got physical and emotions were running high. With their backs against the wall, the Celtics were not going to back down, and Jonas Jerebko made sure of it with his early dunk off a missed three point shot by Thomas. The first quarter set the tone for the rest of the game, as the physicality between both teams was reminiscent to the style of play what was expected in the 1980’s.
Isaiah Thomas’ 42 point performance last night earned him a spot on a list of legends that includes: Larry Bird, John Havlicek, JoJo White, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and Ray Allen, who all scored 40+ points in a playoff game in a Celtics uniform. Thomas showcased what he is capable of, and his offensive game is crucial to Boston’s success in the series, and the next if they get that far. With Evan Turner being the point guard, and Jonas Jerebko spacing the floor, which opened up lanes to the basket, Thomas had room to operate in the half court and ultimately found his rhythm early in the game.
Brad Stevens’ lineup changes proved to be effective as Turner and Jerbko made the best of their starting roles in Game 3. Turner supplied offense while Jerebko’s hustle, defense, and key made baskets pushed the Celtics over the top to take the victory. As previously stated, the lineup at the beginning of the game spaced the floor, allowing Boston to score at will in the first half and late in the fourth quarter.
Now being down 2-1 in the series, Game 4 becomes pivotal as it’s a must win for Boston. Pending on an Isaiah Thomas suspension, the Garden is going to be rocking as momentum is currently on the Celtics side. If Thomas is a go and cleared to play, expect to see Brad Stevens continue with the lineups he had throughout the game last night. When spread thin, the Hawks defense caves, making it easy for Amir Johnson to score points in the paint.
Game 3 exposed the Hawks’ weaknesses. Similar to the Celtics earlier woes in the series, Atlanta doesn’t have a go-to scorer down the stretch, unless you consider Kyle Korver to be that clutch player who can win games for your team on a nightly basis. Boston’s stifling defense kept many of the Hawks players at bay in the closing minutes of the game, and if they can keep up their defensive intensity, this series could become very interesting after Game 4.
At this point all we can do is sit and wait. The NBA is reviewing the hit that initiated the physicality between both teams. Thomas is facing a possible suspension, but theres no evidence to suggest that his swing of the arm to Schroder was intentional. However, it’s up to the league, and unfortunately, the Celtics fate is not in their hands. The next 12 to 24 hours could be what decides the outcome of tomorrow’s game, but until then, let’s enjoy this victory, and a performance by Isaiah Thomas that won’t soon be forgotten.