As part of their major offseason overhaul, the Atlanta Hawks gave Danilo Gallinari a three-year, $61.5 million deal because they believed he could help lift them out of irrelevancy and back into the playoff picture. But even they couldn’t have been expecting nights like Wednesday against the Boston Celtics — especially not after the way Gallinari had started the season.
Sidelined early on due to injuries, Gallinari hasn’t quite found his groove in Atlanta. He’s shooting 40.9 percent from the field, and scoring just 11.8 points per game — his worst mark since his rookie season where he barely played. Entering the matchup against the Celtics, he had 51 points and was 12-for-45 from the field in his last five games combined.
So it was quite a shock, then, when he was getting standing ovations and setting records on Wednesday. But perhaps all he needed was a game against the down and out Celtics. Setting a new Hawks record with 10 made 3-pointers, Gallinari fired his way to a season-high 38 points and led the Hawks to a 127-112 win. He also became just the third player in NBA history to hit at least 10 3s in a game after coming off the bench.
To give you a sense of just how much he was feeling it, at one point in the second quarter he pulled with no hesitation from behind the hash mark with 15 seconds left on the shot clock. And yes, that one went in.
This was just a pure shooting clinic from Gallinari, who remarkably scored 16 percent of his total points from the season in this one game. At once this performance was a reminder of why the Hawks were so eager to sign him, and of how poor he’s been for most of the season.
But for as many incredible shots as he made, Gallinari also benefitted from some poor perimeter defense from the Celtics, who haven’t been able to stop anyone lately, and in turn, haven’t been able to win. With losses in four of their last five games, and 11 of their last 16, the Celtics have fallen under .500 for the season.
Earlier this month, after a blowout loss to the Washington Wizards, Kemba Walker said “it can’t get no worse than this,” but the Celtics have proven him wrong. They’re now 15-17, and sitting in a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference. If the season ended today, they’d be heading to the play-in tournament.
To be fair, they have been decimated by injuries, and Jayson Tatum said recently that he’s still struggling with his breathing after a bout with COVID-19 earlier this season. Still, this isn’t where anyone would have expected the Celtics to be at this point in the season.