ATLANTA – With a 1.5 game lead over the Knicks for the eighth seed, the Atlanta Hawks came into Wednesday night’s game against the Celtics with a sense of urgency. They had laid an egg the night before against the Pistons, and that lack of energy wasn’t going to cut it if they wanted to clinch that final playoff spot.
The birds got the memo, and they used a late run to beat Boston 105-97.
Atlanta came out firing in the first quarter. They went 14-for-18 from the floor (77%), and dropped 32 points in the first 12 minutes. The ball movement was crisp — 11 assists on 14 made baskets — they played hard on both ends, and they had left that horrid effort behind.
The offense slowed a bit in the second quarter, and the Celtics made it a game, but the Hawks held a 56-51 lead at the half nonetheless. That would be the last bright spot for the Hawks for a while, though. The Celtics went on a 10-0 run in the third quarter to take the lead, and Atlanta could get nothing to work in the 12 minute period. They mustered up a lousy 14 points in the quarter overall, and would trail 77-70 heading into the fourth. All momentum was with the Celtics, and the Knicks could smell blood.
The Hawk and Celtics would battle back and forth for the first half of the fourth quarter, and then something clicked. Atlanta exploded for a 19-3 run to take a late lead, and would make huge shots to seal the deal. Jeff Teague had two key steals that led to five points, and they got big shots from Elton Brand and Kyle Korver to propel them to the win. They ended up scoring 35 points in the final quarter, and ended up with a 105-97 win.
Jeff Teague had 19 points and 8 assists, Korver had 17, Elton Brand –who was starting for an injured Pero Antic — dropped 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Paul Millsap had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Hawks. They had six players in double-figures, and 29 points from the bench. The ball movement was great as well, as they had 30 assists on 40 made baskets, and shot 52 percent from the field overall.
“It was a good team win. You look at the boxscore and you see that we had contributions and effort all up and down the boxscore,” coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game. “We had a resilient group out there. To bounce back from a tough loss last night and bounce back from Boston making a run at us and going up nine, it just speaks to the character of our group and the resiliency of our group.” The Hawks struggled in the third quarter, and without that huge run late in the fourth, this game could have ended in disaster. “We got some turnovers and some steals that led to transition baskets, especially a couple of those transition three’s for Kyle. That fueled us,” Bud said of the final quarter.
The Hawks are back in action on Friday in Brooklyn, where they will look to build on their two-game lead on the Knicks for the eighth seed. The magic number is now down to two.