Trae Young was the biggest topic of discussion before this one got started, as the Hawks’ star point guard ended up on the injury report due to some ankle issues. He was confirmed out right before the tip-off, and Jeff Teague moved into the starting lineup to take his place.
The Hawks have basically operated as a team of 9-10 active players over the last month, as Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, Bruno Fernando and players that were recently traded for have all been placed on the pine with injury. The recently acquired Clint Capela is currently dealing with a heel injury, and Dewayne Dedmon sat out for reasons tied to trade machinations.
Regardless, the Hawks were able to field a team on Friday night (for better or worse) consisting of a starting crew featuring Teague, Kevin Huerter, Hunter, John Collins and Damian Jones.
Somewhat predictably, things got off to a wretched start for Atlanta. The Hawks scored the first point of the game at the free throw line and then the Celtics scored the next 11 before Collins ended the thrashing with a jumper from the lane.
Boston continued their unconscious shooting from the field as they eventually ran their lead all the way up to 14 at 24-10 with a little under seven minutes to go. Things took a turn for Atlanta, though, as the Celtics went ice cold from that point and only mustered four (!!!) more points in the remainder of the period.
As a result of the Celtics completely falling off the face of the earth on offense, the Hawks were able to climb back into the game with an 16-4 run to finish the first to take only a two-point deficit into the second quarter.
The Hawks carried the momentum over into the second period, as they quickly tied the game. From there, the visitors were able to finally claim just their second lead of the game with 8:53 remaining in the first half.
The action was fairly back-and-forth after that, aside from a little 9-0 run from the Celtics. The Hawks got that right back with an 8-0 run. Brandon Goodwin and Vince Carter gave the Hawks some really good minutes to end the first half, as Lloyd Pierce did his best to rotate nine guys in-and-out of the lineup.
John Collins closed with a seven-point flurry in the final two minutes for the Hawks to get the lead back once again, and Atlanta actually carried a 55-54 lead into the break.
After such a promising first half, the Hawks continued to play well into the start of the third quarter. The action went back-and-forth over the first six minutes of the period as neither team was really able to get any offensive traction.
However, the Celtics were able to flip a switch in the final half of the third quarter and really began to mount a lead in a hurry. The Hawks finished the quarter shooting just 6-of-21 overall and 2-of-10 from deep.
Boston’s run ended at 17-4 but, by then, the Hawks were already down double-digits. Atlanta struggled to the end of the quarter as the Celtics continued to add to their lead, and the Hawks took an 87-73 deficit into the final frame.
Things really turned around for the Hawks in the early going of the fourth as Atlanta cut the Boston lead to just seven points at the nine minute mark thanks to some inspired three point shooting.
The action got slightly stagnant as the teams exchanged blows over the next five minutes. Atlanta was finally able to get some more push, though, thanks to a Carter three-pointer in transition which cut the lead back to seven once again.
With just under three and a half minutes to go the Hawks were able to get a stop and another bucket to cut the deficit to just five. The Celtics answered with a big three point make to stretch it back to eight, but the Hawks continued to push.
Goodwin was able to keep hope alive as he knocked down a huge three pointer with just over a minute remaining and then had a steal and lay-in to cut the Boston lead to just three points.
Goodwin nearly had a second steal, but was whistled for a foul on Kemba Walker which resulted in two more points for Boston. The Hawks ensuing possession ended in a Collins dunk to cut the lead back to three with Atlanta needing a stop.
The Hawks were able to get that stop and got the ball back with 18 seconds remaining needing a three pointer to tie.
Lloyd Pierce drew up a play designed for Kevin Huerter and Huerter’s effort clanged off the rim. Fortunately for Atlanta, the ball was tipped right back to Goodwin, who shot a three-pointer of his own that was just slightly long and ended up putting a cap on the night.
In the end, the Hawks simply ran out of time to finish the comeback after their lackluster third quarter play. Atlanta played really well for the predicament that they were in with only nine active bodies.
John Collins led the way for the Hawks with 30 points and 10 rebounds. Kevin Huerter tossed in 25 more points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished six assists for good measure. Brandon Goodwin was also great with 21 points and four assists.
Atlanta will be back at it on Sunday afternoon to face the New York Knicks at State Farm Arena.