The Boston Celtics had plenty working against them heading into Saturday night against the Atlanta Hawks.
Despite coming off consecutive wins at home, the Celtics were riding a four-game losing streak on the road and also was 2-5 in the second leg of back-to-backs this season. To pile on, the C’s were without Gordon Hayward, who did not travel to Atlanta as he awaits the birth of he and his wife’s third daughter.
All of those factors made Saturday night’s 113-105 win over the Hawks a proving moment for the Celtics.
In what looked like another let-down road performance as the Hawks handled a double-digit lead early, Kyrie Irving’s 23 first-half points kept the Celtics hanging around. He finished with 32.
And Brad Stevens was more than pleased with how the C’s buckled down in the second half, holding the Hawks to 38 points in the final 24 minutes.
“First half, defense just wasn’t very good, and then Kyrie was special and he kept us in it,” Stevens told reporters after the game, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “In the second half, we really guarded. I thought we showed some tired legs shooting the ball, but we were gritty and we found a way to win. That was a good win and those are hard to come by and I think that’s one of those, (in) this league, you gotta earn every one of them.”
Boston is 11-13 on the road, and sits in fifth in the Eastern Conference at 28-18, 1 1/2 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers.
“They really tested us, we have to understand that they put a bunch of points up in the first half and you just can’t panic,” Irving told reporters after the game, via NBC Sports Boston. “You just have to keep doing the right things and they’ll cool off, as they did. And we just weathered the storm.”
Here are some other notes from Saturday’s Celtics-Hawks game:
— Terry Rozier went just 4-for-12 from the floor with nine points, but drew praise from Stevens and teammates after the game for his effort, leading the team with 11 rebounds. He also added three steals.
Rozier and Jaylen Brown, the latter of whom scored nine points in the fourth en route to a 14-point effort, were critical in Boston’s fourth-quarter surge after Marcus Smart was ejected in the third quarter.
“I thought he was great,” Stevens said of Rozier, via NBC Sports Boston. “He struggled to shoot the ball in the first three quarters. But I thought his energy and Jaylen’s energy, specifically in the late third, early fourth, were pivotal for our team.
“Terry is playing at a really high level,” Stevens added. “He can go 4-for-12 and impact us in a real positive way … I’m excited about the way he has played the last two.”
Al Horford also gave Rozier praise.
— Irving is averaging 32.3 points per contest over the Celtics’ three-game winning streak.
— Vince Carter went 2-for-2 from the floor with four points for the Hawks. The 41-year-old has scored 1,132 career points against Boston, his second highest over 21 seasons behind only the New York Knicks.
— The Celtics are 3-0 against Atlanta this season, and will play the Hawks one more time on March 16 at TD Garden.