The Boston Celtics fell apart in the fourth quarter, allowing the Atlanta Hawks to hit 12 of their 19 shots and squandering a seven-point lead to lose once again. The defeat dropped them into a tie with the Orlando Magic for the third-worst record in the NBA.
Avery Bradley led the Celtics (23-55) with 24 points, including nine in the final quarter. But a team-wide inattention to detail left dangerous shooters Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague open time and again to give the Hawks (35-43) the win.
Fourth quarter, :35.9, Hawks 99-94: They Celtics kinda, sorta had a chance. Rondo got a steal after a pair of Bradley free throws and found Bradley in the corner. But instead of unleashing the shot, Bradley made an ill-advised drive and never got off a meaningful shot.
Fourth quarter, 1:13, Hawks 99-92: It’s all fallen apart for the Celtics. Not only are they leaving knockdown shooters wide open, they just looked on while Carroll cut to the hoop and caught a pass from Teague for a layup to extend Atlanta’s advantage to seven points.
Fourth quarter, 2:49, Hawks 93-92: Was there nothing in the scouting report about maybe covering Korver beyond the arc? The man who owns the record for most consecutive games with a three just knocked down a pair, each one reclaiming the lead for the Hawks.
What an unforgivable defensive oversight by the Celtics.
Fourth quarter, 4:15, Celtics 89-87: Let the scoreboard-watching begin. The Orlando Magic are poised to beat the Brooklyn Nets, which means the Celtics could gain some ground in the lottery race by losing this game. They’re trying.
They’ve watched Atlanta go on a 7-1 run to narrow the margin to two on a three and a fast-break dunk by Teague.
Fourth quarter, 6:29, Celtics 88-80: A little bit of Bayless has gotten into Bradley. Not as in hitting shots — Bradley’s already pretty good at that — but as in getting into a late zone.
Bradley’s put up 12 points since halftime, vaulting into the lead with 22 points. He’s a perfect 4-for-4 from deep, picking the right spots to unleash and not just counting on his shot-making ability.
Fourth quarter, 9:05, Celtics 79-77: Bradley and the Celtics didn’t really think Korver would stay down the entire way, did they? The league’s most dangerous 3-point shooter had just one triple until Bradley left him completely open in the left corner in transition.
Cash, money, and a timeout by Brad Stevens to remind his players that they might want to guard that guy.
End of third quarter, Celtics 77-70: Green knocked his second three of the quarter through the net right before the buzzer sounded, and the Celtics are in control of this game.
The Celtics held the Hawks to 14 points in the third quarter off a combination of improved Boston defense and putrid Atlanta offense. The Hawks shot just 5-for-20 from the field, which is tough to do even against a bad defense. If the Celtics keep this up, they’ll finally bid farewell to their losing streak.
Of course, that’s a big “if” for the Celtics.
Third quarter, 3:37, Celtics 71-66: When Sullinger and Bass are playing well, the Celtics seem to follow. Right now, they are playing extremely well.
Bass hits a couple of his patented jumpers, the latest of which gives the Celtics their largest lead of the game. His J’s followed a couple tough buckets in the paint by Sullinger, both creating on his own and finishing Rondo’s passes.
The frontcourt duo now has 16 points combined, half of which have come in this quarter.
Third quarter, 6:49, Hawks 64-61: Jeff Teague has been a thorn in the Celtics’ side pretty much since he entered the league, and he isn’t stopping now.
Bradley has continued his hot shooting into the second half, and his pull-up jumper knotted the score at 56-56. But Teague proceeded to score five straight points to re-establish the lead for the Hawks, who are gradually cooling off.
Halftime, Hawks 56-51: Bit by bit, the Celtics are edging their way back into this one. It helps that they have stopped letting the Hawks score whenever they want.
The Hawks ended up shooting just 47 percent in the second quarter, a vast improvement for the Celtics defensively after their terrible first quarter effort. After Johnson provided the spark, Bradley picked right up, pouring in 10 points in the frame to tie Johnson for the team’s scoring high.
Second quarter, 3:11, Hawks 49-40: The last three minutes have been a little slow, to say the least. Bradley drained a corner three off a kick-out from Rondo, with the net hardly budging. That’s all the action we really have to tell you about.
Second quarter, 5:57, Hawks 49-37: Following their atrocious shooting start, the Celtics have been lights-out at the offensive end. They are 15-of-22 (68 percent) from the field since their 0-for-5 start and are 4-for-9 from deep.
Of course, that just goes to show how bad they’ve been on defense.
The Hawks continue to shoot above 70 percent and now have four players — Williams, Mike Scott, Millsap and Carroll — sharing the team lead with seven points. Every player who has been in the game for Atlanta has scored.
Second quarter, 8:39, Hawks 41-32: Johnson is at least giving the Celtics some energy, even if the team still isn’t playing a lick of defense. Johnson sneaked into the lane to catch a dish from Phil Pressey, then spun for a layup.
Johnson followed that up by drawing a shooting foul on a corner three, hitting all three free throws. Johnson now leads all scorers with eight points, which says everything not only about him, but about both these teams.
End of first quarter, Hawks 32-23: One way to offset your offense when shots aren’t falling is to tighten up defensively. The Celtics aren’t doing that.
A pure-luck 3-pointer by Chris Johnson to beat the buzzer narrows Boston’s deficit to single digits, but there’s no question this was an ugly opening 12 minutes for the green team. Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo combined to shoot 3-for-9 and the Hawks led by as many as 14.
Atlanta hit 14 of its 18 shots — really, that number shouldn’t be possible for an NBA team against an NBA opponent — and got at least two baskets from six different players. Six different players.
First quarter, 5:52, Hawks 16-6: If these slow starts are part of the Celtics’ gameplan to lull opponents into a false sense of security, it hasn’t worked.
The Celtics missed their first five shots, falling behind 7-0 before Jared Sullinger finally hit a short hook shot that bounced around on the rim four or five times before obstinately going in. The Celtics are a cool 3-for-9 from the field with three turnovers in the first six minutes.
They are, of course, losing.
First quarter, 10:49, game tied 0-0: We’ve got an early stoppage as Paul Millsap went down to the floor hard going to a rebound and took a moment to stand up. Millsap stays in the game, possibly seeing some stars.
6:39 p.m.: Kris Humphries didn’t accompany the Celtics to Atlanta, but he did find out this morning that there was no damage to the meniscus in his right knee.
So, you could call this a win-win for Hump. (We kid, we kid.)
Humphries missed the Celtics’ last game with tendinitis in the knee, but a precautionary MRI was scheduled for this morning. Now, Humphries should be free to return to the court whenever the soreness subsides.
6 p.m. ET: Nobody seems to be more upset over the Atlanta Hawks possibly making the playoffs than the Hawks are themselves.
Despite their best efforts, the Hawks (34-43) are clinging to the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Two six-game losing streaks in the past month and a half have just about dropped the Hawks out of the field, with the New York Knicks now nipping at their heels.
It’s gotten so “bad” for the Hawks, what once looked like a sure loss to the Indiana Pacers turned into a 107-88 win as the Pacers just can’t seem to get out of their own way.
Enter the Boston Celtics (23-54). This matchup could get ugly, with the Celtics bringing in an eight-game losing streak to rival anything the Hawks have done this season. Reinforcements are due to arrive for the Celtics in Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, who are dealing with Achilles and thigh injuries, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Hawks might be shorthanded if Lou Williams is sidelined again. After Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer benched Williams for seven games in March, the Hawks’ leading bench scorer has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. He’s probably against the Celtics. [tweet https://twitter.com/ajchawks/status/454003074923634688 align=’center’]
The projected starters appear below.