BOSTON — Even without the services of two of their best players, the Atlanta Hawks still were far too much for the Celtics to handle Wednesday night at TD Garden.
The Eastern Conference-leading Hawks led for the final 35 minutes and pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 105-91 win — the 24th in their last 26 games.
Pulling a Gregg Popovich, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer decided to rest Kyle Korver and Al Horford for the contest, with Thabo Sefolosha and Pero Antic taking their respective spots in the starting lineup. The two replacements combined for just 10 points (though Antic did equal his season total with four steals), but the contributions of the three other starters proved to be more than enough to propel Atlanta to its 10th straight win.
Paul Millsap had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Demarre Carroll added 22 points and five boards, and Jeff Teague finished with 22 and six assists.
The second quarter basically was one giant defensive lapse for the Celtics. Led by Teague’s seven points and Mike Scott’s nine off the bench, the Hawks turned a tie game after one quarter into a 57-45 halftime lead.
Rookie James Young’s defensive shortcomings were exposed — former Brad Stevens disciple Shelvin Mack blew right by him on a baseline drive — and Teague exploited a mismatch against the much bigger and slower Brandon Bass to score on consecutive possessions. The blame for those Bass gaffes falls on Marcus Smart, however, as the rookie should have know better than to rotate away from the lightning-quick Teague with a power forward as his help.
THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF KELLY OLYNYK
Olynyk’s final stat line wasn’t too shabby (12 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes), but he looked woefully overmatched on the defensive end. Millsap, Dennis Schroder and Elton Brand (yes, he’s still in the league) all took turns abusing the Celtics center in the paint in the third quarter.
Atlanta also massacred Boston in transition, owning a 19-2 edge in fast-break points. The Celtics had their chances before the Hawks put the game out of reach, but too many possessions ended up like this:
Up next: The Celtics wrapt up a three-game homestand Friday night against the Chicago Bulls. The first three meetings between the C’s and Bulls this season all have been competitive, with each being decided by single digits. Chicago owns a 2-1 lead in the season series after taking the most recent matchup 109-104 in overtime.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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