Hawks must ‘contain the ball’ to limit scramble situations in Game 2

BOSTON -- The Hawks learned some tough lessons in Saturday’s Game 1 loss to the Celtics. But they came away heartened by their second-half performance and look to take into Game 2 on Tuesday.

The Hawks outscored the Celtics 55-38 in the second half after falling behind by 30 points at halftime. Their first diagnosis of the team is that the Celtics opened the afternoon more aggressively. They attacked the basket while the Hawks tried to limit their 3-point opportunities.

When the Hawks tried to counter with protecting the paint, the Celtics made them pay by knocking shots down from the perimeter.

“That said, I think our offense has to help our defense,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said on Sunday. Some of that will be as simple as making an open shot, and not having to defend in transition. And then there’s other things. We’ve battled our spacing. And we’ve got to continue to really drill down on that, and be unbelievably precise with where we are in the court. And that’ll let us play together.”

The Hawks have developed an identity as a team that crashes the offensive glass and in Saturday’s game, the Celtics made a concerted effort to double the Hawks’ bigs in order to keep them off of the glass. It ended up allowing the Celtics to grab 46 defensive rebounds, well above the 35.6 they averaged at the end of the regular season.

The Hawks adjusted in the second half and still ended the game with 14 offensive boards. In doing so, they’ll try to cut down on how much they have to defend in transition.

But the Hawks also have to make sure that when they get set on the defensive end that they don’t have those breakdowns that led to some easy buckets from guys like Robert Williams, as well as Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Derrick White.

As a whole, the Celtics went 27-of-49 in the paint with Williams making all six of his attempts at the rim.

The Hawks know, though, that they have to stay in front of the ball. The Celtics have the ability to stretch the Hawks’ defense to its max with a stretch five in the rotation in Al Horford.

When Snyder took over coaching the team, he noted on a number of occasions that the Hawks had a habit of overhelping on the defensive end. It led to them giving up too many 3s. Now they have to find the right balance if they’re going to make this a competitive series. That starts with them staying in front.

“We got to contain the ball better,” Snyder said. “That will really help. There were some situations where you did help when we need to. And then we rotated out of it. So we’re going to be in scramble situations, if we don’t keep the ball in front of us and invariably, that’s going to happen at times particularly, when we get mismatches down low versus there’s no opportunity to get beat on a drive, the ball goes up, there’s no opportunity to double team, hit or do anything like that. And that’s the position that they put you in. And with just got to do our best to not be in those positions as much.”