Final, Hawks win 92-91: No Steez magic today.
Crawford took the Celtics’ final three shots, but none went down, not even his fallaway eight-footer as the buzzer sounded. Although the bench crew of Kris Humphries, Kelly Olynyk and Courtney Lee deserves credit for the boost they gave, this was still a bad loss for the Celtics (13-18). They led the Hawks (18-14) by as many as 18 points and led for their share of a back-and-forth fourth quarter before failing to execute in crunch time.
Olynyk led the Celtics with 21 points, and Humphries had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Lee, with 11, was the only other Boston player to reach double figures. Jared Sullinger, with a sore wrist, and Jeff Green did not play in the fourth quarter.
Paul Millsap led all scorers with 34 points.
Fourth quarter, :04.2, Hawks 92-91: Brad Stevens doesn’t like to use those timeouts, apparently. The Celtics had multiple looks and needed to make two defensive stops, including defending two fast break layup attempts by Atlanta, but couldn’t take the lead. Crawford missed a couple of bad threes, but the Celtics got the offensive rebound.
Stevens finally, mercifully, took a timeout.
Fourth quarter, 2:10, Celtics 89-88: The shine sort of looks like it might be coming off the Humphries-Olynyk combo, but the Celtics are holding on for now.
Courtney Lee drilled a jumper in transition and Humphries canned a 15-footer from the wing to push the Celtics back ahead after a Hawks flurry gave Atlanta the lead. The only person who doesn’t look so thrilled is Jeff Green. Green has been standing at the end of Boston’s bench with his hands on his hips, looking somewhat perturbed at not being in this game at all in the fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter, 5:40, Celtics 85-76: Kyle Korver’s streak lives. The Hawks’ sharpshooter missed his first five attempts from beyond the arc, but he finally netted one while being fouled by Gerald Wallace to extend his NBA-record streak to 101 games with a 3-pointers.
More importantly for the Hawks, Korver’s shot helped keep the Celtics within striking distance as Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk threatened to run away with this. Olynyk has 10 points in the fourth alone for a team-high 21 points in the game.
Fourth quarter, 8:42, Celtics 74-70: Kris Humphries just keeps doing too many good things for the Celtics to keep him on the bench. He’s added a dunk and a few more boards to his stat line to give him 12 points and eight rebounds in 20 effective minutes.
End of third quarter, Celtics 67-62: Call the Hawks Times Square, because they dropped the ball in that quarter.
The Celtics were reeling on offense and didn’t look to have any hope of figuring out how to get the ball in the hoop, yet the Hawks still came out behind. Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries had a hand in it, surprisingly enough, as did Kelly Olynyk. The three on-again, off-again bench players have combined for 25 points for the Celtics, who will take offense however they can get it.
Third quarter, 3:15, Celtics 57-54: Somehow, some way, the Celtics actually lead this game and actually might have control of it, too.
Despite going 10:26 without a basket — beginning with a Courtney Lee jumper in the first half and extending until a Jeff Green jumper in the third quarter — the Celtics have retaken the lead thanks to 3-pointers by Kelly Olynyk and Jordan Crawford. Even with a 30-6 run, the Hawks were unable to take over the driver’s seat.
Points are at a premium all around. These teams are 41-for-120 combined from the field — good for 34 percent.
Third quarter, 9:25, Hawks 45-44: This has gone downhill fast. Since taking their 18-point lead with more than five minutes to go in the first half, the Celtics have not scored a basket. That’s nearly eight minutes without a jump shot, layup or 3-pointer.
Meanwhile, the Hawks have scored 21 points, interrupted only by those Avery Bradley free throws.
Halftime, Celtics 44-39: Avery Bradley hit a pair of free throws — and that’s it. Bradley’s freebies were the only points the Celtics mustered in the last five-plus minutes of the second quarter, which they concluded by giving up a 13-2 run to Atlanta.
The Celtics haven’t done so well with big leads lately, though, so maybe this is just what they need. Now it’s way too close for them to be comfortable, so there’s no chance of them getting too comfortable.
At least, that’s what Brad Stevens and his crew have to hope.
**UPDATE**: Jared Sullinger, who left the floor wincing toward the end of the second quarter, suffered a bruised left wrist. He will be available to play in the second half.
Second quarter, 2:43, Celtics 42-26: Both these teams could use a jump-start on the new year, because this year isn’t doing them any favors on its way out. With two points scored in the last two-plus minutes, it’s been a fiasco of turnovers and missed shots — including a flubbed dunk by Gerald Wallace.
Second quarter, 5:15, Celtics 42-24: A growing first-half lead and solid contributions from the Celtics’ bench. Where have we seen this before?
The Celtics are surging, extending their lead to 18 points and looking out of Atlanta’s league. But this is the way the Celtics have looked in a lot of first halves, and things haven’t worked out quite as well after halftime.
Let’s see how much they can add to this lead in the next five minutes — because they’re probably going to need every point.
Second quarter, 8:43, Celtics 34-20: Kelly Olynyk often seems afraid or unwilling to shoot, which leads to a lot of ugly misses. But with the Celtics rolling, he received a pass along the left baseline and let loose without thinking.
Olynyk sometimes can fight himself when he hesitates to shoot, but maybe that moment will give the Celtics coaching staff something to teach about in film. When he doesn’t overthink, he can make shots.
Second quarter, 11:13, Celtics 28-20: Courtney Lee is on another one of his mini-runs. The reserve guard opened the second quarter on a 5-0 run to bring a quick timeout from Atlanta’s bench. Lee drained a 3-pointer on Boston’s first possession, then picked off a pass and dribble casually upcourt for an open-floor dunk.
End of first quarter, Celtics 23-20: Jared Sullinger wants all the rebounds.
There were plenty of errant shots to go around as these teams combined to shoot 17-for-44 in the first 12 minutes. The Celtics tracked down 17 of those misses; Sullinger accounted for seven of those boards.
The only guys who have some semblance of offensive rhythm are Paul Millsap and Brandon Bass. Millsap has a game-high 11 points in a variety of ways, owing to his inside-outside versatility. Bass leads the Celtics with seven points by attacking the basket and getting to the line. He’s 3-for-4 from the stripe already.
First quarter, 5:28, game tied 8-8: Every team gets a run in the NBA. Both teams have gotten them out of the way already, to an extent.
The Celtics missed five of their first six shots before Brandon Bass found a rhythm and scored four of their first eight points to give Boston an 8-2 lead. Then Paul Millsap and the Hawks finally got something going and came back to knot it up on a runner by Millsap.
Still, the offensive show isn’t exactly roaring for either team. They’re 7-for-21 combined from the field, and the Celtics already have three turnovers.
12:32 p.m.: Bombs away!
That’s pretty much what Atlanta’s offensive approach amounts to. Not only do the Hawks have Kyle Korver, who has hit at least one 3-pointer in 100 straight games to break Dana Barros’ record, but they are also sixth in the league in threes attempted and seventh in accuracy. Four players average more than three treys attempted per game.
The Celtics have been good about defending the 3-point line — they hold opponents to the fourth-lowest percentage in the NBA — and that was how they earned the victory in the first meeting in Atlanta. The Hawks shot just 5-for-20 from deep in that game as the Celtics came out with a 94-87 win.
The Hawks’ leading scorer in that game was Al Horford, who is out for the season with a strained right pectoral muscle.
11:50 a.m.: Brad Stevens might request a few more early-afternoon games on the Celtics’ schedule. It sure makes his job easier when dealing with the media.
“These morning games sure don’t bring out the biggest crowds,” Stevens laughed while scanning the handful of reporters at his pregame media availability this morning.
Stevens only fielded a handful of questions, none directly related to this game. He did reiterate his remarks from Monday that Rajon Rondo could spend some time with the Red Claws in the D-League, sort of like a baseball player rehabbing in Triple-A, once the point guard is nearing his return from his torn ACL.
“It’s more to get his wind back than anything,” Stevens said.
The projected starting lineups are below.
8 a.m. ET: The Atlanta Hawks are no pushovers — except when they are.
Despite being one of only three teams in the Eastern Conference with a record above .500, the Hawks (17-14) haven’t looked so hot lately. Since pushing the Dwyane Wade-less Miami Heat to overtime before ultimately losing four games ago, the Hawks have needed extra sessions to dispatch the Cavaliers and Bobcats, and fell to the Magic on Sunday. Meanwhile, center Al Horford is out indefinitely with a strained pectoral muscle.
Atlanta is also just 5-10 on the road, so the Celtics (13-17) should be thankful this one is in Boston.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 1 p.m. ET.
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