The Boston Celtics have won a Game 6 on the road for the second consecutive year. This time, it punched their ticket to the second round.
The Celtics stepped up in the clutch Thursday night at State Farm Arena, withstanding an Atlanta Hawks offensive barrage to surge to a 128-120 victory in Game 6. The win secures a 4-2 first-round series victory for Boston and sets up a Round 2 showdown with the Philadelphia 76ers.
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Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown carried the load for Boston with 30 and 32 points, respectively, while Marcus Smart delivered 22 points and made several key plays as part of a late C's run. (More on that shortly.)
Trae Young led the Hawks with 30 points but went ice-cold in the second half, as Boston outscored Atlanta by 10 in the fourth quarter to surge to victory.
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Here are our takeaways from a Game 6 win that gives the Celtics three days off before Game 1 against Philly on Monday:
The Jays deliver the knockout punch
The Hawks played another excellent offensive game, and Young came out firing with 25 first-half points. But Boston's All-Star duo answered Atlanta at every turn.
Brown was his team's best source of offense for the third consecutive game and was particularly hot from long range, making 6 of 8 3-pointers. Several of those threes came after Atlanta took the lead and helped Boston stay within striking distance.
That set the stage for Tatum, who snuffed out the Hawks with a monster putback slam off a missed Al Horford deep ball with 2:10 remaining.
Tatum recorded team highs in rebounds (14) and assists (seven) in addition to his 30 points, while he and Brown recorded their 23rd career game scoring at least 30 points each.
Boston's record in those 23 games? 22-1.
Marcus Smart rewards Celtics' faith
After Smart made several critical mistakes down the stretch in Game 5, it was worth wondering whether he should be on the floor in crunch time for Game 6.
In fact, head coach Joe Mazzulla briefly subbed Smart out with five minutes remaining Thursday. Mazzulla went back to Smart just 30 seconds later, however, and the point guard responded by delivering in the clutch.
First, Smart set up a Horford 3-pointer with a great pass from the paint. Then he drilled a 3-pointer of his own to cap a 14-3 run that gave Boston an eight point lead.
Malcolm Brogdon (17 points) had an excellent game off the bench and made a case for staying on the floor after watching the Game 5 collapse from the bench.
But Mazzulla stuck with Boston's longest-tenured player in Game 6, and it's hard to argue with the result: Smart shot 50 percent (6 for 12) from the floor and was a plus-11, tying Tatum for best on the team.
Trae Young turns to ice
Young is the reason this series went six games, and he continued his offensive brilliance in the first half, pouring in 25 of Atlanta's 67 points on four 3-pointers.
The second half was a very different story, however.
The Hawks star was an abysmal 1 for 13 in the final two quarters, mustering just five points while missing all four of his 3-point attempts. Young got a decent amount of open looks, but appeared to run out of steam after carrying Atlanta for most of the previous two games.
The Hawks go as Young goes, and while he was terrific offensively from Game 2 on, he didn't have enough gas left in the tank to force a Game 7.
Bring on the Sixers
Boston's win sets the stage for what should be a great second-round series against Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia.
The Celtics won their season series 3-1 over the Sixers and have won five consecutive playoff series over Philly dating to 1982. The Sixers have been playing excellent basketball of late, however; they've won 18 of their last 24 games and were the only team to sweep their first-round postseason matchup (against the Brooklyn Nets).
If Joel Embiid can suit up for Game 1 on Monday, Boston will have its hands full.