The Boston Celtics weren’t exactly demolished by the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night thanks to a late second-half comeback, but an ugly two-and-a-half quarters doomed the C’s in a 123-116 loss at Philips Arena.
Paul Millsap had 26 points and 12 rebounds and was one of six Hawks who scored in double figures. Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 35 points, while Celtics teammate Jae Crowder had 24 points.
With the win, Atlanta improved to 40-38, while Boston dropped to 50-29. The C’s now are 1.5 games back of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and they lead the Toronto Raptors only by two games for the No. 2 seed. The Hawks, meanwhile, are alone in the East’s fifth spot.
Here’s how it all went down.
Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, Al Horford
MORE OF THE SAME
The Celtics looked like the same lifeless team from Wednesday night for most of the first quarter. The Hawks dominated on the glass with a 14-7 rebounding advantage, which included five offensive boards. Atlanta made 13 of 27 shots in the frame (50 percent), while Boston only made 8 of 18 attempts (41.2 percent).
The Celtics trailed 32-24 after the opening 12 minutes, but it could have been even worse. The Hawks went on a 12-0 run during the frame, but back-to-back Marcus Smart 3-pointers kept the game within single digits. Thomas led the way for the C’s after one with seven points, while the Hawks’ Taurean Prince paced all scorers with nine points.
MORE OF THE SAME (2)
The Celtics continued their comeback attempt early in the second quarter, as they continued a 17-4 run to pull within 36-35 on a Jaylen Brown 3-pointer with just over nine minutes remaining in the half. But the rest of the frame was more bad news for the C’s.
The Hawks scored 71 points in the first half, including 27 in the final 6:05 of the second quarter, and led 71-55 at the break. Atlanta continued to dominate the boards with a 26-13 first-half rebounding edge, and nine of those were on the offensive end. Some of the Celtics’ plus/minuses were downright horrific, too, and Thomas’ minus-26 was the worst of all. Prince, meanwhile, continued his big night with nine more points to up his total to 18.
The same story continued yet again for most of the third quarter, as the Hawks led by double digits for the entire 12 minutes. However, the C’s started to make it a game with a 12-3 run to close the quarter trailing 99-89. Smart continued his hot night from beyond the arc with his fifth 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Celtics eventually pulled to within five points with under one minute remaining on a Thomas 3-pointer, but that was as close as they’d get.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Prince had a big first half, including this dunk.
The Celtics will play their final road game of the regular season on Saturday in Charlotte against the Hornets. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET. The C’s then will close out the regular season with home games against the Brooklyn Nets (Monday) and Milwaukee Bucks (Wednesday).
Thumbnail photo via Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports Images