The Boston Celtics had struggled in the first quarter through the first three games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Atlanta Hawks. They managed to break the 20 point barrier just once and have repeatedly failed to come out and jump on the Hawks the way they should. This all changed on Sunday in Game 4 when the Celtics outscored Atlanta 32-19 in the first frame and had already reached 20 points with over four minutes remaining. The Celtics specialize in winning ugly, often starting slow and relying on their defense to keep them in games until their offense gets into sync. They often struggle in the first quarter and have gotten away with it for the most part this year. However going into game 5 with Atlanta on the ropes, the Celtics will need to start Game 5 just as fast as Game 4 in order to finish the Hawks.
Former Celtic Tommy Heinsohn always says "you need to give a team a reason to quit." The Hawks don't have a whole lot of confidence against the Celtics. The opportunities have been there for them in this series. They had Boston down 1-0 going into Game 2 and couldn't finish them off despite the Celtics being without Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. They had a shot to win Game 3 after Boston fell asleep late in the fourth quarter, but couldn't get it done. Now they have their backs to the wall facing a team that they have never been able to get over the hump against. All the Celtics need to do is give the Hawks a reason to quit and the series is over. A fast start will do it.
Boston should have done this in Game 3. The Hawks had just missed a golden opportunity to go up 2-0 on the Rondo-less Celtics and were going into the game without star forward Josh Smith. All the Celtics needed to do was jump on them early and the Hawks would have folded. Instead Boston drifted through three quarters letting the Hawks hang in a game they had no business being in. They woke up in the fourth only to go right back to sleep with four minutes remaining, almost fumbling the game and a 2-1 series lead away. The Celtics learned from their mistakes in Game 4, jumping all over the Hawks in the first quarter and essentially putting the game away by half time. They gave the Hawks a reason to quit and they quit. They just need to do this one more time and the series should be over.
The Hawks will be at home for Game 5 which will make destroying their will a little harder, but if the Celtics come out and jump on the Hawks early that should do it. Boston has shown the ability to close out games better than the Atlanta, as evidenced by their close wins in Games 2 and 3, however letting the Hawks hang around is asking for trouble. The Celtics got away with it in Game 3, but they probably wont get away with it again. The Hawks are down 3-1 to a team that they are not convinced they can beat. The Celtics have them on the ropes, are rested, and should be healthy. All they need to do is give them a reason to quit. Boston has their foot on Atlanta's throat, all they have to is press down.
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