The Boston Celtics entered Saturday evening’s game at Philips Arena sporting the longest winning streak in the NBA and, for the better part of 48 minutes, that run was in peril. However, the Atlanta Hawks were unable to pull off the upset, as the Celtics produced a come-from-behind performance on the way to a 110-99 final score.
In an apparent carryover from Wednesday’s 46-point blowout, the Hawks came out of the gates firing on all cylinders again. Atlanta used a 16-0 run to claim a 15-point lead in the early going and that spurt included four connections from beyond the three-point arc. All told, the Hawks were able to outscore the Celtics by a 35-20 margin in the first quarter and that was buoyed by 63 percent shooting and 11 points from Kent Bazemore.
As you may expect, the Celtics leveled things out in short order and much of the damage was done with a 15-4 run to open the second quarter. That brought the visitors within four points but the Hawks did not wilt under the heat, staving off the charge on the way to a six-point halftime lead.
In that first half, the Hawks were able to hold the Celtics to just a 90.8 offensive rating and Boston committed 13 turnovers with some help from Atlanta’s defense. That provided some level of optimism for the home team in the second half, even if the Hawks likely would have preferred a more comfortable cushion after the brilliant first quarter.
After struggling to generate offense in the first half, the Celtics wasted no time in turning things on in the third quarter. Boston scored 24 points in the first 6:11 of the period and the team then used a 10-2 run to take back the lead at 68-65. Atlanta gamely fought back to stop the bleeding but it was a back and forth affair (with some haymakers from Jayson Tatum and John Collins) until the Celtics took a three-point lead to the closing period.
The Hawks were able to scratch and claw in the early portion of the fourth quarter but a 12-3 run from Boston placed the game effectively out of reach. That spurt gave the Celtics an eight-point lead with four minutes remaining and, from there, the visitors were able to ride the margin to an eventual 11-point victory.
Atlanta was led by Dennis Schröder, who finished the game with 23 points (on 9 for 18 shooting) and nine assists, while John Collins added a hyper-efficient 18 points and seven rebounds (in 25 minutes) off the bench. In the end, it was an encouraging performance on a number of levels for Atlanta but the firepower from Boston exploded in the second half and the Hawks just were unable to fully answer.
The Hawks will now enjoy a travel day on Sunday before taking on the San Antonio Spurs in their annual visit to AT&T Center on Monday. Stay tuned.