Kyrie Irving loses 30 points while Celtics beat Trae Young, Hawks 129-120

Kyrie Irving, of the Boston Celtics, left, overtakes Trae Young of Atlanta during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Boston on Saturday, March 16, 2019. (Parlay Game Photo / Michael Dwyer)

Michael Dwyer / Associated Press

the Boston Celtics completed a sweep of the season Atlanta Hawks with a 129-120 win Saturday at TD Garden.

Back home after a 25 point loss to Los Angeles Clippers Monday helped the Celtics get back on track. They defeated a good Kings Sacramento Team Thursday and stopped the Hawks' two-game winning streak.

That win was not easy after the Hawks cleared a 25-point deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving Led a balanced offensive attack for Boston with 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Jaylen Brown scored 23 Marcus Morris recorded his second consecutive double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Soothing defense will ruin the Celtics title hopes

Many stories have been written this season about why the Celtics did not reach the level expected after last year's race in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference final.

United States todayof Nate Scott tried to split the blame into percentages, the two biggest culprits being "too many young guys tasting last year" (40%), an Eastern Conference improved (20%) and Irving (17% ).

Here's what Scott wrote about the fact that the Boston roster was overcrowded after the young players' success last season:

"There's just not enough shots to go in. Jayson Tatum has become the team's leading scorer and is getting someone who's trying to get shot when he can." Jaylen Brown is in the funk, as is Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Rozier, Brown, Ojeleye have all seen minutes go by this year, as well as shots.

"It was always going to be a problem, this crew will rightly feel they have earned the right to be the leader of this franchise."

One thing Scott did not take into account is that the Celtics apparently have no interest in playing defense. This goes beyond the impossibility of preventing opposition. They came back almost from the same group as last season. LED the NBA in defensive efficiency.

Their statistics this season do not indicate a significant decline in defense. They entered Saturday class seventh in points allocated per game (107.3) and fifth in efficiency (107.1 points allocated for 100 possessions).

In the last 10 games, Boston has lost at least 100 points at least seven times. Saturday marked the first time since March 5 that an opponent was shooting less than 48% of the field.

Tom Westerholm @Tom_NBA

The Celtics defense has been really catastrophic, but this Hawks team is fun.

The Hawks are the last team to exploit Boston's lack of size with a 19-11 advantage in offensive rebounds.

Irving described it as cruel irony that the Celtics were lazy in defense in November.

If the Celtics want to qualify for the playoffs by relying solely on the offensive, they could return home sooner. Irving was their only regular striker this season.

The summit of the Eastern Conference is stacked with teams capable of scoring a lot of points in a flash. the Toronto Raptors have 12 players who averaged at least seven points per game. Only the Warriors of the state of the gold average more points per game than the Milwaukee Bucks (117.6).

Even the Philadelphia 76ers, who have defeated their rival Atlantic Division this season, have one of the most dynamic units with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler.

Playing in defense in the NBA is often as much a question of effort as talent. Taking a step further to face an opponent, potentially forcing a bad pass, can go a long way towards keeping the ball out of the basket.

When Young throws a three just inside the logo, Marcus Morris does not even try to challenge the shot is a bad look for the Celtics.


Trae composes one from just inside the logo! #TrueToAtlanta

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The Celtics are apparently unable to close their teams. The Hawks tied the score at 112 midway through the fourth quarter with a 34-9 series taking just under eight minutes.

Head Coach Brad Stevens has a problem with his team that will not go away. Unless he finds a way to remedy the situation next month, the Celtics will consider an early exit for the playoffs and a period of uncertainty related to the offseason.

And after?

The Hawks will fly south to take the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center on Sunday at 6 pm ET. The Celtics will complete their three-game family match Monday at 7:30 pm AND with a renowned intra-conference confrontation against the Denver Nuggets.