If the Boston Celtics’ last two games have proved anything, it’s that they have a flair for the dramatic.
The Celtics got off to a horrible start Saturday night, scoring just 34 first half points in Game 1 of their first round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. But as they did Wednesday against the Miami Heat, the C’s battled back, erasing a 19-point deficit to take a lead early in the fourth quarter.
This game would have a different outcome for Boston, however, as Atlanta pulled away late and barely escaped with a 102-101 win to take a 1-0 series lead.
Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 27 points and seven assists. Avery Bradley added 18 but left in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury, while Marcus Smart added 15 off the bench and Jae Crowder tallied a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Al Horford paced a balanced Hawks effort with 24 points, while Jeff Teague dropped 23 points and 12 assists. Kent Bazemore added 23.
Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, Jared Sullinger
The Celtics couldn’t buy a bucket during a rough offensive first quarter.
Atlanta’s stifling defense forced Boston to settle for outside shots, and the strategy worked, as the C’s went 1 for 9 from 3-point range that included an 0 for 4 start from Crowder. They shot at a brutal 27 percent clip (7-of-26) in the first frame.
The Celtics showed spurts of good defense, but the Hawks closed the quarter on a 7-2 run thanks to a Horford 3-pointer that gave them a double-digit lead after one.
BAD TO WORSE
If you were expecting the Celtics to find their shot in the second quarter, well, they didn’t.
In fact, Boston somehow shot worse than it did in an abysmal first quarter, scoring just 16 points on 5 of 26 shooting. The Celtics shot 23 percent from the field during a 34-point first half, their worst offensive half of the entire season. They continued to struggle from deep, too, as Smart and Jared Sullinger were the only players to make 3-pointers for Boston in the first half.
Fortunately for the Celtics, Atlanta didn’t exactly light it up, either. The Hawks went just 2 for 9 from 3-point range in the second quarter and only outscored Boston by six points in the frame despite its major offensive issues.
FLIPPING THE SCRIPT
For the second consecutive game, the Celtics used a big third quarter to make it a ballgame.
Thomas racked up eight points in the quarter after tallying just six points in the entire first half, helping Boston whittle Atlanta’s 17-point halftime lead to 10.
The C’s found success by picking up the pace, converting defense to immediate offense to the tune of 11 fast-break points in the frame.
They finally started hitting their 3-pointers, as well, with Thomas hitting two deep balls and Bradley hitting a triple that brought Boston within just five. The C’s dropped 31 points in the quarter after scoring just 34 points in the first half.
The Celtics evaporated the rest of Atlanta’s slim lead by suddenly catching fire from beyond the arc.
Smart hit a pair of 3-pointers and Crowder added another in the span of under two minutes to give Boston a three-point lead after it had trailed by 19 in the first half.
FIGHTING TO THE END
The Celtics and Hawks went back and forth down the stretch, but Boston finally ran out of magic.
The C’s trailed by just three points with under a minute to go, but Evan Turner missed an open 3-pointer with 38 seconds left that was Boston’s best opportunity to emerge with a win. Thomas made things interesting with a deep three that cut Atlanta’s lead to one with 0.4 seconds left, but the Celtics ultimately ran out of time.
Bradley left the game midway through the fourth quarter with a strained right hamstring and did not return.
The Celtics guard came up lame while running down the court on a C’s possession. He fell to the ground and immediately began clutching the back of his right leg before limping to the locker room with the help of his teammates.
PLAY OF THE NIGHT
Teague showed off some serious moves with this strong take on Bradley in the first quarter:
The Celtics and Hawks get two days off before Game 2, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Philips Arena. The series will come to Boston on Friday in a Game 3 matchup at TD Garden scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports Images