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Comeback effort falls short for Hawks in Boston, 129-120

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The NBA is a game of runs, after all.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks were back in action on Saturday afternoon, with rare 12:30 pm ET tip in Boston against the Celtics. The visitors were entering on the heels of an impressive offensive showing against the Memphis Grizzlies (one of their best of the season) in the friendly confines of State Farm Arena, but the sledding was tougher when opposing a talented Celtics team, and the end result was a 129-120 defeat despite a valiant comeback.

Kyrie Irving opened up the scoring with jumper immediately following Boston winning the initial jump-ball. Irving and Trae Young traded scores inside a moment later with the Celtics up 6-4 in the early going before a nice delivery from Young to John Collins on the pick and roll to briefly tie the game at 6-6.

Collins hit a face-up jumper to pull the Hawks within one, then after another score by Boston, Young tied the game with a three-pointer.

Young and Irving were both active early, both scoring nine points in the first five minutes of play. Collins had the other six for Atlanta at the 7:08 mark in the first, when the Hawks trailed Boston 15-18. Despite the high scoring early, there was some defense played.

Taurean Prince went on a personal 5-2 run out of the Hawks timeout to knot the score at 20-20 for a moment. The scoring started out at a rampant pace, as Boston started 9 for 12 from the field while Atlanta started 12 for 18, respectively.

Prince and Kevin Huerter powered a 10-2 run to put the Hawks up five, forcing a timeout from Boston head coach Brad Stevens at the 4:58 mark in the first.

The Celtics came out of the break on a 5-0 run, with an Aron Baynes three-pointer tying the score at 27. Boston pushed the run to 13-3 in the waning moments, getting stops on defense and scoring in transition on multiple occasions.

Prince got to the free throw line on a Hawks’ break, making both, to pull Atlanta back within three around the 2:30 mark in the first. DeAndre’ Bembry scored inside a few moments later to pull the guests back within one.

A Jaylen Brown and-one and Marcus Morris three sandwiched around a Boston stop quickly pushed the lead back up to seven.

After a slew of fouls and free throws in the final seconds of the first quarter, the deficit remained seven, with the Celtics out in front of the Hawks, 43-36, heading to the second.

Boston shot 62 percent for the period on top of scoring 43 points. Defense was optional, or so it would seem.

Vince Carter hit two three-pointers and dunked early in the second, but the Hawks could not string together any stops to cut into the margin.

The Hawks kept scrapping, a Bazemore mid range jumper brought the Hawks back within four at the 8:35 mark, but Boston answered with another easy score inside on the ensuing possession.

The Celtics pushed that bucket into a 10-0 run over the next few minutes as the Hawks suffered through their first extended scoring drought of the game. A Marcus Smart three put the score at 62-48 in favor of the hosts and prompted a timeout from Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce at the 5:51 mark in the second quarter.

Collins hit Huerter on a cut for a layup, finally halting the run at 12-0, but the damage was done, with Boston still up 14 as the second quarter ticks down.

Moments later, Huerter kicked out to Young (at 30 feet) for his second three-pointer of the game. Collins then split a pair of free throws moments later to trim the margin to eleven. After a couple of sloppy possession from each team, a Collins layup pushed Atlanta’s run to 9-2 and cut the deficit back to single digits at 68-59 around the two minute mark of the second.

Boston pushed back out on a 6-0 run, before Prince hit a three to beat the buzzer at the half, making it a 12 point game at intermission.

Collins led the way for Atlanta in the first half, with 14 points (6-13 from the floor), five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.

Young had 12 points (5-8) and four assists to go along with two rebounds and two steals. Prince added 12 points while Carter scored eight in less than seven minutes of on court time.

Irving led the way for Boston with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. The Georgia native Brown had 13 points off the bench in first half, including this ridiculous slam dunk.

Boston started the second half on an 8-1 run (pushing the deficit to 19), with the Hawks unable to score a field goal in the first 2:24 of the third, forcing Pierce to call a timeout in an effort to stop the bleeding.

Collins put home a second chance layup out of the timeout, breaking the ice in the third for Atlanta. Young hit his third three of the afternoon moments later, cutting the Boston lead back to 16.

Prince hit a pair of free throws to briefly inch the guests a little closer, but the lack of defensive effectiveness from Atlanta makes cutting into the lead pretty tough against a loaded Boston attack.

Young hit another deep three to cut it back to 13 moments later but the Celtics raced down the floor off the made basket for a layup, pushing the lead back to 15 immediately. Young sits at 20 points on a 8 of 11 shooting at this point, with he and Collins again dominating most of the scoring for Atlanta.

Morris hit a three for Boston moments later to push their lead back to 18. Timeout Hawks, 93-75 in favor of the Celtics at the six minute mark of the third quarter.

Following Young’s three to make it a 13-point game, Boston went on a 15-3 run to push their lead up to 25.

However, a two minute 14-1 run from the Hawks brought it back within 12 at 104-92 near the end of the third. Terry Rozier split a pair of free throws in the final seconds of the quarter to make it 105-92 in favor of the Celtics heading to the fourth.

Collins hit a cutting Bazemore for a layup to cut it to ten around the ten minute mark of the fourth. After another Hawks stop, Collins split a pair of free throws to cut it to single digits, 106-97.

Bazemore hit a mid range jumper to cut it to seven briefly before Tatum got to the rim for an and-one finish plus the free throw to push the lead back to double-digits for the Celtics.

Young checked into the game at the eight minute mark, cutting it back to three after a personal 5-0 run that included a floater and a three. The Hawks started the fourth on a 14-4 run, with the overall run being 28-6 dating back to the third.

Irving hit a circus and-one finish as well as the free throw to put the Celtics back up six after a timeout, but Dedmon immediately responded with an and-one of his own to cut it back to three.

With the Hawks in the bonus early, Young drew a foul on Irving and split a pair of free throws to make it a two point game with 6:30 to play. After another Hawks stop, Bazemore got to the line, hitting a pair of free throws to tie the game with 5:53 to play. A tie game with half a quarter to play after the Hawks being down 25 with 3:12 left in the third. Okay then.

Brown responded for Boston, however, hitting a three-pointer off of a Prince turnover to give Boston the lead again, then drew a charge on Carter on the ensuing possession, which lead to another Boston score that made it 117-112 after the quick 5-0 run.

Morris got to the line and made it a 7-0 run with a pair of free throws with just over four minutes remaining.

The run was pushed to 9-0 after a Brown run-out off of sloppy Atlanta possession. The Celtics never let go off the lead this time, despite a valiant effort from the road team. The 25-point deficit the Hawks built for themselves in fact turned out to be a little too much to overcome, and frankly, it was amazing the Hawks got as close as they did. They actually had a chance to cut it to a one possession game with less than one minute remaining

Overall, it was a great effort against a great team, in a tough building. If there are such things as morale victories (and I believe there are on young teams), then this is one.

Young finished with 26 points (10-15) with four assists, four rebounds and two steals. Collins finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, tying his career high in assists. Carter added 16 points (6-11, 4-6 from three-point-range) in 21 minutes off of the bench.

Irving finished with 30 points (12-24) with ten rebounds, nine assists and two blocks. Brown finished with 22 points off of the bench. Tatum added 18 while Morris had 19.

The Hawks will travel to Orlando now to complete the road back to back on Sunday evening.