Broadcast video appears to show teammates and assistant coach Jay Larranaga trying to defuse the dust-up. Asked after the game about a potential squabble, first-year Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, "Disagreements are part of the game, it’s part of team basketball. But how quickly you move on from there says a lot."
What had both players worked up? It was likely the struggles of Boston's first unit. The starters were minus-7 in plus/minus over 10 minutes together in the first half, allowing the Hawks to chip away at an 18-point advantage that the second unit helped build. When that lead further dissolved at the start of the second half, Stevens pulled his underperforming starters in favor of the second-unit frontcourt featuring Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk.
How bad was Boston's first unit? In 17 minutes of total floor time, Boston's starting five (Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, Green, Bass and Jared Sullinger) combined for 5-of-27 shooting (18.5 percent) with only three assists and 18 total points. The group was minus-13 overall. The second unit of Phil Pressey, Courtney Lee, Wallace, Humphries and Olynyk was 13-of-20 shooting (65 percent) with 12 assists and 35 points over 13 minutes. That group was plus-15.
Did the sideline tiff prevent Green or Bass from reentering the game? Stevens suggested that he was set to ride the reserves the rest of the way. He leaned on a full reserve unit straight up until 4 ½ minutes to go when Bradley and Crawford checked back in.
This isn't the first time that Stevens has used his reserves for extended stretches late in games. Back in early November, Green sat out the final 15 minutes of a loss in Detroit. Stevens hasn't been afraid to ride hot hands (and send a message in the process). He's often reminded his starters that, if they don't bring their A games, there's a set of reserves eager for their floor time.
The guess here is that any frustrations between players will blow over quickly. The underperformance of the first unit as a whole and figuring out why it happened is where the players should channel any lingering anger.