Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks
The Boston Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks 105-95, behind Jayson Tatum‘s strong performance and an explosive third quarter. With the win, the Celtics extend their winning streak to eight games. Tatum had 13 points going into halftime, but he was just 5 of 13 from the field and 1 of 6 from three. He, and the rest of the boys from Beantown, overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and soared past the Hawks with a 42-point third quarter. Tatum finished the game with 38 points (13-27 FG, 4-10 3PT), 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and two blocks. Jaylen Brown added 17 points, nine rebounds, and three assists. The recently acquired Derrick White tallied 14 points, four rebounds, five assists, two steals, and one block. Marcus Smart compiled 13 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and one steal. Robert Williams III also had a strong game, finishing the contest with 10 points, 14 rebounds, one assist, and two blocks. Al Horford was 2-2 from three and finished the game with eight points, six rebounds, and one block.
The Celtics have climbed all the way up to the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference—above the play-in tournament and only two games back of the Philadelphia 76ers who may take some time to integrate James Harden. The Celtics had an active trade deadline themselves, as they added Derrick White and Daniel Theis and sent out Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, Dennis Schroder, Bruno Fernando, Enes Freedom, P.J. Dozier, and Bol Bol across three separate deals. The blockbuster Nets and 76ers trade garnered most of the headlines on deadline day, but the Celtics acquisition of Derrick White sets them up for a strong playoff run. According to NBA.com, the Celtics have the second-best defense in the league, just a point-per-100 possessions behind the Golden State Warriors. But the Celtics have been the league’s best defense over the last month. Derrick White is only going to make that defense stingier. The Celtics don’t really have anyone to guard Giannis or KD, but they have one of the league’s best rosters to defend James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Darius Garland, Caris LeVert, or Trae Young as they did pretty well in this game. The offense is likely to remain a question, but this defense won’t be fun to play against come playoff time. Not to mention, they could be a player in the buyout market given that they could have meaningful playing time to offer. It seems unlikely, but if the Celtics and Raptors could manage to get up to the fourth and fifth spots in the standings, I’d love to see another knock-down-drag-out seven-game series from those two teams.
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The Hawks did not make any deals this trade deadline and although things could change, they appear destined for the play-in tournament. Most of the teams above them in standings improved their teams through trades or are just better than them. Although they allowed the Celtics to score 42 points in the second quarter, it’s hard to complain about giving up 105 points in 2022. The Hawks’ offense let them down as much as their defense did in this game. They scored just 17 points in the fourth quarter, shot 36% from the field, and let a 15-point lead slip away. The team is in desperate need of a secondary creator alongside Trae Young and more reliable defensive personnel. Young led the Hawks in scoring and finished the game with 30 points (9-26 FG, 4-12 3PT), four rebounds, 10 assists, and two steals. Bogdan Bogdanovic had a decent game and looked to be enjoying the trash talk from Celtics fans courtside; he finished the game with 26 points (9-20, 3-10 3PT), six rebounds, two assists, and one steal. De’Andre Hunter added 10 points (4-16 FG, 2-7 3PT), six rebounds, three assists, and two steals. No other Hawks player scored in double figures. Clint Capela did some nice work on the boards, however, finishing the game with 8 points, 17 rebounds, and one block. Johns Collins missed this game due to a heel injury and is not expected to return until after the All-Star break.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Indiana Pacers
The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Indiana Pacers 129-120, behind a scorching hot shooting night from Anthony Edwards, who scored a game-high 37 points (13-25 FG, 7-13 3PT) and added five rebounds, four assists, four steals, and a block. It was a lively game from Edwards after reports came out that he had been dealing with a sore knee over the past month. Edwards caught fire from three in the third quarter, shooting 5-6, but he was able to get downhill and score at the basket throughout the game. At times, his shot selection still lives a lot to be desired, but Edwards continues to flash his driving game and as he does my confidence in his eventual star turn grows. D’Angelo Russell did his thing as well, finishing the game with 23 points (8-14 FG, 3-6 3PT), two rebounds, six assists, and one steal. Karl-Anthony Towns had a quiet night by his standards, as he finished the game with 15 points (5-12 FG 1-1 3PT), 13 rebounds, three assists, and an unfortunate six turnovers. Patrick Beverley added 13 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocks. Malik Beasley (10) and Jaden McDaniels (11) also scored in double figures. Although Jarred Vanderbilt‘s position in the starting lineup seems secure, it’s notable that he played just 23 minutes while McDaniels played 30. McDaniels rebounding issues will probably keep him out of the starting lineup, but he’s clearly found his footing this season and appears to have earned more trust and leeway from the coaching staff.
The Indiana Pacers were quite busy at the trade deadline, in fact, they might have been THE team of the trade deadline. They made one of the bigger deals of the season, as they sent out Domantas Sabonis, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Kings in exchange for Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, and Tristan Thompson. This is, of course, after they traded Caris LeVert and a second-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ricky Rubio and multiple picks. The Pacers drastically re-made their roster and gave themselves some added flexibility going forward. That’s the good news, the bad news is they’ve now lost six in a row—although that really isn’t such bad news either. The Pacers could, if they have the gumption, spend the rest of the season quietly tanking. Tyrese Haliburton‘s infectious and aesthetically pleasing style of play is the perfect cover for a calculating tank in a supposed four-player draft. The Pacers are 0-2 in games Haliburton has played in, but both games have been relatively close and the vibes have been good. Rather than rushing to get their veterans back on the court the Pacers should get a long look at their new additions and see what their young players can do with more opportunity. All of their moves at the deadline suggest this is what they’re already thinking, but they may need to get creative about resting players or limiting their minutes to make sure they don’t pick up a handful of useless wins at the end of the season.
Tyrese Haliburton co-led the Pacers in scoring and finished the game with 22 points (7-14 FG, 6-12 3PT), five rebounds, 16 assists, and one steal. Oshae Brisset notched a season-high with 22 points, grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds, dished out two assists, and blocked two shots. Lance Stephenson tallied 21 points, three rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Jalen Smith added 17 points, 12 rebounds, and one block. Buddy Hield finished the game with 13 points, eight rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block. Terry Taylor (10) scored in double figures as well. Goga Bitadze, who started in place of Jackson, finished the game with seven points, three rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Chris Duarte started, but left the game due to a toe injury after just four minutes. Until some of the veterans return, you can expect big minute totals for Haliburton (40), Hield (39), and Oshae Brissett (36). The only fear I’d have is that maybe Haliburton especially misses a few games late in the season due to rest to facilitate the tank. The Pacers remain incredibly shorthanded, as they were without Isaiah Jackson (right ankle sprain), Malcolm Brogdon (Achilles), Myles Turner (foot), T.J. Warren, and T.J. McConnel for this game.