The Celtics were about 12 minutes away from putting a chock-hold on their first round series against the Hawks. Instead, they had a defensive meltdown allowing the Hawks' Joe Johnson to go off for 20 points in the 4th quarter and even up the series at 2-2.

I do want to give credit to the Hawks first and foremost. I took some heat earlier this month for an article I wrote about how I felt that the Hawks were a solid playoff team. This Hawks team is the most athletically deep team in the NBA. What they lack in experience and shooting, they more than make up in freakish athleticism. And as I wrote, I do like the way Mike Woodson designs simple sets to let his players use their athleticism to beat opponents.

OK, now back to the Celtics. What happened to their 10 point lead heading into the last quarter?? The failure of the players and coaches to make the necessary defensive adjustments. In fact, they were double-teaming the wrong players and the leaving Joe Johnson and Josh Smith on 1v1. Take a look at 3 sequences from the 4th quarter,

Who Not to Double-team:

So, in this first clip, Al Horford of the Hawks gets the ball in the low block. Normally I favor doubling the post, because it's the most dangerous offensive position on the floor. But every situation is unique, and as a coach you need to adjust your defensive gameplan based on circumstances happening within the game. Al Horford had scored just 4 points up to that point and just 1 FG. Johnson already made 7 shots. To me, double teaming Horford and leaving Johnson open on the perimeter was not a wise decision,

In this next clip, about a third way through the quarter, they double Josh Childress on the low block. In fact, it's a double from the weak side which is even more deliberate. Like Horford, Childress only had 4 points in the game. Childress passes out of the double to Johnson who has dragged the arc, and drives it into the lane after catching the pass and hits a pull-up jumper,

Finally, with less than 5 minutes to go and now 2 points behind the Hawks, the Celtics decide to let Paul Pierce guard Johnson 1v1, the result was not pretty for the Celtics,

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. It's easy to criticize by taking clips and pointing out mistakes. But it is from these mistakes that we learn. If the Celtics are to make a deep playoff run, they will need to make the necessary adjustments. I think I know what Doc Rivers was thinking, this young guy is gonna cool off eventually, he can't keep it up, we'll just wait it out. The problem is though, the double-teams on Horford and Childress were unnecessary and forced the defense into tough rotations.


I think most people are still assuming the Celtics go on to win, Kenny, Magic and CWebb all thought so on TNT. If they do, I think they will find the Magic a tough team to guard, and Lebron and the Cavs even tougher.

As for the upstart Hawks. If they manage to win this series, it would be a great thing for the city. Atlanta has had a bad rap with their sports teams lately and the Hawks have usually suffered the worst of it.

Free throws got you singing the blues? Take a look at Ed Palubinskas's DVD on Becoming a Great Shooter. Coach Palubinskas has worked with professionals such as Lisa Leslie, Shaquille O'Neal and recently Lauren Jackson. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.