Did anyone get the reference in the title? Early ’90s grunge…
I’ve got to admit it: I gave up on this series before it even started. To be honest, I think I predicted the Celtics would sweep. So, it was quite the surprise when the Hawks took a game from the Celtics Saturday night. It was funny that the main reason for the Hawks losing Games 1 & 2 in Boston (youth) is the same reason why they won Game 3. The Celtics looked very old Saturday night…and the Hawks looked like high schoolers. Of course, some of them are just a few years out of high school, so that’s not far from the truth. The youngest team in the NBA dominated a game from start to finish, and it really wasn’t even close.
So, will this happen again in Game 4? Well, I’m optimistic, but I’m not delusional. The Celtics are too experienced and too savvy to let that happen again, right? They’ve got way too much playoff experience to have another meltdown…right?
Before you answer, think about this. Mike Bibby was a no-show in Games 1 & 2, and had a decent Game 3. However, he still hasn’t come near his potential. Sure, in Game 3 he did a good job of running the offense and getting other guys off to a good start, and had the assist stats to go along with that. But he still wasn’t scoring. For a guy who scores a lot more than 9 points per game (his current series average), there is still much room for improvement. Do I expect Josh Smith to have as good of a game as he did Saturday night? No (even though I still contend that he has made Kevin Garnett, the Defensive Player of the Year, look extremely pedestrian on defense). But I also expect Bibby to contribute more offensively as well–the averages bear that out.
Joe Johnson has got to continue to improve. While he was downright awful in Games 1 & 2, he was slightly better in Game 3. Sure, his point total was much higher, but he’s still playing very tentatively. Al Horford has continued to excel, and Marvin Williams is doing about what we expected.
So who knows? It’s enough for me that the Hawks are actually making the Celtics sweat a little. I am proud that they played so well in Game 3, because I felt like their performance in the first two games was not indicative of their true potential. And considering this was the first opportunity that the rest of the country was getting to see the Hawks, I wanted them to make a better impression. I felt like they did that Saturday night, and I hope they do that again tonight.
Let’s hope the crowd shows up again, and that the Hawks act their age again. If that happens, we might just get another win.