With a 42-37 record for both teams, the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics had a lot to play for heading into Saturday night’s matchup. Each team looked to separate themselves from the rest of the tightly bunched NBA Eastern Conference field.
Celtics Out To A Fast Start
Paul Millsap and Al Horford started the game with great drive and performance, putting the Hawks ahead early. The Hawks implemented a very aggressive defense that benefited the offense as well. Though the Hawks were maintaining the lead throughout the first quarter, the Celtics consistently remained on their heels.
Towards the end of the quarter, Boston caught up to Atlanta to momentarily tie the game at 25. The Celtics then took the lead for the first time, until Mike Scott made a 3-point jump shot from 24 feet out. For the remainder of the quarter, the lead went back and fourth until a three point shot by Dennis Schroder with an assist by Horford ended the high scoring period with the Hawks leading 34-32.
The second quarter was a different story for the Hawks. The Celtics took a five-point lead early into the second quarter with shots by Evan Turner and Jae Crowder.
Atlanta fought to regain the lead and was able to tie the game at 48 halfway through the period. The shoe was on the other foot for the majority of the second period as the Celtics consistently led the game and the Hawks tried to catch up. Despite the Hawk’s effort, the half ended with a Celtics lead 71-67.
Boston Goes Ice Cold From Three Point Line
The Celtics demonstrated that they weren’t playing around just seconds into the third with a dunk by Amir Johnson. Atlanta’s defense needed to step up in order to regain control, yet the offense didn’t seem to be in sync either. Points were hard to come by for the Hawks in the first half of the third quarter. The Celtics led by 12 points at just under six minutes left in the period, largely thriving off of turnovers.
The overall pressure of the game took full effect with under a minute left in the quarter, and after a quick layup and a three pointer by Millsap, the Hawks regained the lead, ending the third quarter 93-91.
To start the final quarter, the lead alternated back and fourth, with the Hawks at a slight advantage due to Kent Bazemore’s aggressive defense and another scoring outburst by Millsap. Jeff Teague made a game changing play with a steal, layup, and a foul. He then made the free throw and put the Hawks up 110-103 with 3:19 left in the game. At that point, Boston called a timeout. Horford hit a three with less than two minutes remaining that pretty much sealed the game for Atlanta. The Hawks soared to a final score of 118-107.
The Hawks outshot the Celtics 52 percent to 44 percent. Atlanta also shot 52 percent from the three-point line, while Boston shot 39 percent. Overall, rebounds, assists, turnovers and steals were fairly even. Paul Millsap was Atlanta’s star of the night with a season high 31 points and 16 rebounds for a double double.