In the first-round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks weren’t given much of a shot to knock off the Boston Celtics. Sure enough, through their first two games of action, the Hawks haven’t looked to be anywhere near the same level that the Celtics are at. While they had an encouraging start in Game 2, the end result was the same, with Atlanta losing by a score of 119-106.
The Hawks are not a perfect basketball team, but pretty much every one of their flaws are getting put on full display by the C’s. Atlanta did a good job of keeping this game close for the most part, but in the playoffs, that doesn’t get you much. Atlanta’s job was already difficult, which makes winning four games before Boston can win two seemingly impossible.
Atlanta has the talent to make these games more competitive than they have been at the very least, but, much like we saw in Game 1, the Hawks saw several of their key players turn in ugly outings in Game 2. So with another loss in the books for Atlanta, let’s take a look at the three players who are most to blame for the disappointing outing.
3. Clint Capela
Heading into this series, we knew it was going to be tough for Clint Capela. Capela is a strong paint player on both sides of the court, but going against a floor-spacer in Al Horford and one of the best shot blockers in the league in Robert Williams III isn’t exactly helping Capela out here. And in Game 2, he basically played his way off the floor.
Capela’s numbers aren’t bad (4 PTS, 7 REB, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 2-4 FGM) but he played just 22 minutes, and was kept on the bench in crunch minutes as Quin Snyder tried to see if a small-ball lineup could spark a comeback. Capela matches up well against several teams across the NBA, but unfortunately for him, the Celtics are not one of those teams.
It will be interesting to see what Snyder opts to do with Capela moving forward now. Capela is obviously going to start, but it feels like Atlanta is better off with him having a smaller role moving forward. But even then, they lose a strong interior presence on offense, and their best paint defender on defense when he’s off the court. It seems like a lose-lose scenario when it comes to Capela’s playing time moving forward for the Hawks.
2. John Collins
With Capela off the floor late in this game, that left John Collins as the small-ball center, and while it didn’t yield the worst results, it wasn’t really due to anything spectacular Collins did himself. After a fairly lifeless performance in Game 1, Collins followed it up with an even worse outing in Game 2 that surely aggravated Hawks fans.
Collins somehow led the Hawks in plus/minus, finishing as a plus-eight, but his numbers don’t exactly show how that’s the case. Collins was awful offensively (5 PTS, 6 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 2-11 FGM) and while he always makes an effort on the glass on offense, it doesn’t always lead to points. And similar to Capela, Collins spends much of his time on defense looking lost.
The Hawks really have to play Collins, because when he’s on, he’s one of their top offensive players, but right now, he’s hurting his team more than he’s helping them. Collins needs to work on cutting to the rim more, rather than just sitting at the perimeter, because he’s not hitting his threes, and it will help open things up for Trae Young, which leads us to the biggest disappointment in Game 2…
1. Trae Young
Young was awful in Game 1, and he was just as bad in Game 2. His counting stats are admittedly a bit better (24 PTS, 6 AST, 3 REB, 9-22 FGM) but it’s hard to watch these games and be impressed with how he’s playing. Young is getting completely shut down on offense, and whenever Boston needs a quick bucket, they just search him out on defense and attack him.
In the second half, Young woke up a bit and played with more pace, but it didn’t really change the trajectory of this game. Young needs to be pretty much perfect in order for Atlanta to win in this series, but he’s been arguably their worst player instead. He’s missing tons of shots he should be hitting, and turning the ball over at an incredibly high rate.
It’s hard to ignore that the Hawks have looked better without Young on the court. He’s bogging down the offense with his poor decision-making and can’t defend anyone on the Celtics. Maybe a trip home to the State Farm Arena will help him turn things around, but if Young keeps up this awful play, Atlanta will be on vacation before they know it.