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Paul Millsap sparks 2nd half surge as Hawks down Celtics

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Paul Millsap scored a season-best 31 points as the Atlanta Hawks knocked off the Boston Celtics

NBA: Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks needed to dig deep on Saturday and they delivered rallying from 12 down in the second half for a 118-107 win over the Boston Celtics.

Boston certainly didn't make it easy for Atlanta as the Celtics ripped off a 71-point first half. The third quarter started much like the first half ended, with the Hawks just trying to hang into the game. Boston pushed the lead to 85-73 on a layup by Jae Crowder with 5:36 remaining in the third forcing an Atlanta timeout.

Things changed from that point on as the Hawks responded with an 8-0 run to cut the deficit back to four. Atlanta closed the quarter with an 18-4 jaunt to take a 93-91 lead into the fourth. The Hawks clamped down defensively in the fourth limiting the Celtics to just 33 percent shooting in the period. Boston stung Atlanta with 10 made threes in the first half but were just 1 for 11 after the break.

"Obviously, a big win. A pretty high-level NBA game," Mike Budenholzer said after the game. "To see offense like that and shot-making like that from both teams, we certainly didn’t expect it to be like that, 71-67 at half. I think a credit to our players to find a way to pick up our defense, find a way to get stops, hold them to a 20-point third quarter and 16-point fourth quarter. After that first half, it was a heck of a defensive effort. Paul Millsap with a monster game. He was special. Other guys stepped up down the stretch. They are very good. To beat them in a game like this at home, it’s a very good test for us. We have to keep building."

Paul Millsap continues to surge

Last season at this time, Paul Millsap was nursing a shoulder injury that would hamper him throughout the post season. This season, he is healthy and appears to be hitting his stride at the right time for the Hawks as they head into the postseason.

Millsap continued his strong play in Saturday's win by stuffing the stat sheet with 31 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, two steals and five blocked shots. He is doing it at both ends of the floor and the rest of the team is simply following his lead.

"Just overall, it was a pretty special game by him," Budenholzer said. "That third quarter, we went down by 12. I think he came out and had a two-point bucket in front of our bench, Kyle hits a three and Paul hits a trail three. It goes from 12 to four. We rode him pretty long in the third quarter. I thought on the boards he was great, his hands, his activity. A great all-around game by Paul."

Seventeen of Millsap's 31 points came in the second half as the Hawks took control.

Millsap has been solid throughout the season but has turned up his play through four games in April averaging 21.5 points and 14.8 rebounds while shooting 51 percent from the field. He is also averaging two steals and 3.5 blocks on the defensive end of the floor and the Hawks will be just fine for him to carry that over into the playoffs.

"Tonight was a tough game for us," Millsap said. "The last game was a tough game. Cleveland is going to be a tough game. Washington is going to be tough. I think it's important that we step up to the challenge that's been presented to us."

Point Guards come up big

While Paul Millsap did most of the heavy lifting, the Hawks got a big lift from the point guard position.

Jeff Teague continued his string of good performances with 24 points and seven assists but Dennis Schröder snapped out of a shooting slump to add 15 points and seven assists of his own.

Teague has scored at least 20 points in four straight and five of his last six games. He is averaging 23.8 points per game in April and shooting 48 percent from three-point range.

Schröder came into Saturday's game just 4 for 27 from the field over his last three games. However, he knocked down 6 of 12 from the field including 3 of 4 from three-point range against the Celtics.