Kemba Walker and Daniel Theis returned to the starting lineup for the Boston Celtics on Friday, and it paid dividends in a 121-109 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden.
Walker scored 20 of his team-high 28 points in the first half. He finished an efficient 10-for-16 from the field including five 3-pointers, five rebounds, six assists and three steals. Theis came up just shy of a double-double with 14 points and eight rebounds as the Celtics owned the paint on both ends.
The Celtics held a 25-point lead after the first half, their largest half-time lead of the season. Boston, however, watched the Hawks outscore them by 13 points in the fourth to again make the game interesting.
Jayson Tatum added 25 points as six Celtics including Jaylen Brown (17), Tristan Thompson (17) and Robert Williams (12) all scored double figures.
Boston shot 56 percent from the field and 41 percent from long range. They also had 26 assists as a team.
Trae Young led the fourth-quarter comeback with a game-high 31 points and 11 assists. Clint Capella finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds himself. Atlanta shot 42 percent from he field and 33 percent from 3-point range.
Boston moved to 15-14 on the season while Atlanta fell to 12-17.
Here’s how it went down:
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Tristan Thompson
C: Daniel Theis
DOMINATING THE PAINT
The Celtics came out with a much different intensity in the early going, getting out in transition and benefitting from strong shooting while taking a 33-22 lead after the first.
Boston made eight of first 10 shots from the field, doing so on six assists to take a seven-point lead midway through the quarter. The Celtics concluded the quarter shooting 59 percent from the field (13-for-22) on 10 assists and a 20-10 advantage in the paint.
Walker led all scorers with eight points while Brown and Thompson each had seven. Brown also had four first-quarter assists. Tatum (four points) was active defensively with one steal and another forced turnover late in the quarter.
Atlanta shot 30% (7-for-23) from the field in the quarter with Boston blocking four shots.
RUNNING AWAY WITH IT
Walker scored nine of his 20 first-half points within a 40-second stretch and the Celtics stayed hot in taking a 66-41 lead at the break.
The Celtics went on a 17-3 run during a four-minute stretch which gave them a 22-point lead. Walker hit two 3-points and finished on a three-point play during the stretch. Tatum scored 12 first-half points, as well.
Robert Williams was everywhere in the first half. He provided the energy while running rim-to-rim with 10 points, two blocks and two steals. He was a perfect 5-for-5 in nine minutes.
Boston was killing it in transition, too.
The Hawks struggled mightily. Atlanta shot 33% (14-for-43) from the floor with starters John Collins (0-for-7), Kevin Huerter (0-for-5) and Cam Reddish (1-for-6) as well as Danilo Gallinari (0-for-7) not helping.
KEEPING THEIR LEAD
It wasn’t a great start to the third for the C’s, but with Brown and the high-low game of Theis-Thompson, Atlanta didn’t make up any ground. Boston kept a 98-73 lead heading into the fourth.
Brown scored nine of his then-17 points in the quarter while Thompson scored eight of his 17 in the period, as well. Tatum scored nine in the quarter to climb to 21 in the game.
The Hawks cut their deficit to 19 in the opening minutes after hitting six of their first 10 shots, but the C’s responded on the offensive end.
MAKING IT INTERESTING
The Celtics, perhaps true to form, didn’t keep their foot on gas and cruise to a win.
Instead, Atlanta went on a 13-0 run at the onset of the quarter and cut the C’s lead from 25 points to nine with five minutes remaining. Boston was outscored 26-10 at that point.
Boston got the lead back to 13 with less than three minutes remaining on a 3-pointer from Walker. Walker took a charge on the defensive end to keep it a 10-point lead with one minute.
Theis also made a few key buckets.
PLAY OF THE GAME
A double alley-oop?!
The Celtics will return to action Sunday when they travel to the New Orleans Pelicans at 3:30 p.m. ET.