The Atlanta Hawks could not have asked for a better start to what would ultimately be a 110-99 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics at Philips Arena on Saturday night.
Following the loss, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said of the Celtics, “They made more plays down the stretch.”
That could not have been said of the now 15-2 Celtics during the first quarter as Atlanta (3-13) jumped out to a 17-10 lead that was stretched to 31-15 with 2:32 to play during the first 10 minutes of the game.
“It was a great start for us,” said Budenholzer. “The energy and activity was where it needed to be.”
It would not be for long.
The 16-point advantage would be the largest lead of the night for Atlanta however, the Celtics have won 15 straight games for a reason and would show exactly how by cutting the Hawks lead to six points at halftime.
Boston would go on a 14-4 run late in the second quarter, pulling within five points following a three-pointer by leading scorer Kyrie Irving at the 3:43 mark. Hawks rookie John Collins and Dennis Schroder would make consecutive baskets to keep Atlanta in front but the momentum clearly belonged to Boston.
The third quarter belonged to Collins in a way but mathematically (36-27) was more Boston’s property than anyone else’s. The Celtics opened the quarter on a 7-2 run to pull within a point before Schroder made consecutive three-pointers to put the Hawks back in front by seven at the 7:53 mark.
The Hawks would fail to lead by more than a basket again as Boston rookie forward Jayson Tatum, who was scoreless during the first half, scored 14 points in the second half, most of which came on coast-to-coast dunks and three-pointers.
Boston would regain the lead by three, 70-67, with five minutes remaining in the game and despite the Hawks immediately tying the game on a Marco Belinelli three-pointer, the Celtics would lead the game 80-77 at the end of three quarters.
The Hawks forced Boston into 13 first-half turnovers, the Celtics would only turn the ball over three times in the second half and only once during the fourth quarter (on an illegal screen by forward Aron Baynes) en route to outscoring Atlanta 30-22.
The Hawks would more than double their amount of turnovers from the first half (6) with a total of 13. The “plays” Boston made that Budenholzer was talking about down the stretch came from almost every member of their rotation as five players ended the game in double figures, including Irving (30 points) who scored 19 second-half points to go alongside second-year forward and Marietta native Jaylen Brown’s 17 second-half points (27 points in all). The Celtics also outrebounded the Hawks 41-35.
Hawks would also have five players in double-figures with Schroder leading the way with 23 points on 9-18 shooting and nine assists. Kent Bazemore scored 19 points (only eight during the second half), Collins added 18 points and seven rebounds, Luke Babbitt, who started at power forward again tonight, went 4-12 from the field for 11 points and Taurean Prince scored 14 points.
The Hawks will be back in action on Monday in San Antonio before a four-game homestand against The Clippers, Knicks, Raptors, and Cavaliers after the Thanksgiving holiday.