The Atlanta Hawks may be able to turn the Celtics offense into hero ball

If the Atlanta Hawks (22-25) want to win their sixth game in a row on Friday, they will need to make their opponent, the Boston Celtics, play a certain type of game. Riding the wave of their own momentum, as well as that of Trae Young’s second All-Star starting nod, the Hawks should want Jayson Tatum to play hero-ball.

That may seem counterintuitive – Tatum is one of the premier players in the NBA and has been almost from ‘go’.

He’s averaging 26.0 points and is hauling in a career-high 8.5 rebounds per game.

However, he’s also shooting just 42.7 percent from the floor and 33.1 percent from beyond the arc. Both are career lows for the two-time All-Star and 2020 All-NBA selection. Tatum is also an Olympian so the pedigree is there.

The Atlanta Hawks could actually use hero ball to beat the Celtics

Atlanta can use Tatum’s usage to their advantage. It is at a career-high this season and hasn’t worked out at its heaviest this season. Boston is 17-20 when Tatum takes at least 20 shots this year. They are 0-2 when he takes over 30 attempts from the field in the contest, though, both of those came way back in October.

Of course, that isn’t anywhere close to definitive. The best players take the most shots on every team. Especially with all of the COVID and injury absences the Celtics have dealt with, namely to Tatum’s sidekick and potential Hawks trade target, Jaylen Brown.

But they are 9-9 when his usage rate creeps up to 34.0 percent or better.

He’s also averaging just 3.9 assists to 3.0 turnovers and his tunnel vision has long been the biggest knock against what is really one of the most dynamic scorers in the game.

Still, the Celtics have won four of their last six contests with him averaging 29.1 points, 8.3 boards, and 5.0 assists while shooting 47.3 percent from the floor and 34.0 percent from downtown and cutting his turnovers down to 2.7 per outing. Tatum scored 51 points in a blowout win over the Washington Wizards on Sunday.

The Hawks are tenth in steals during their winning streak even though they are tied for just 15th in opponent turnovers. On the other side, the Celtics are 4-13 when Tatum turns the ball over at least four times in a game.

Atlanta’s increased effort and intensity on defense has helped key their current run just as much as Young’s play has kept them afloat all season, earning him his second All-Star start.

They’ll need to keep it up to get this win and extend their streak to six games.

Brown is putting up 22.2 points, 7.7 boards, 3.5 assists, and 1.2 steals during the Celtics slight turnaround to their rocky season.

On the year, Boston is 19th scoring but fourth in defense. The Hawks are seventh and 24th, respectively. But during their surge, those rankings are 13th and first for Boston; second and 11th for Atlanta.

The Hawks won the first meeting this season 110-99 with Tatum taking 22 shots, for what it’s worth, but Brown did not play.