Hawks Beat Third-String Celtics 112-106

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 8: Taurean Prince
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 8: Taurean Prince /
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On a night where the Boston Celtics rested their starters and backups for the entire 4th quarter, the Atlanta Hawks made some clutch plays late and defeated the Celtics on their home floor, led by an incendiary performance from Taurean Prince.

The Celtics led the majority of this game and generally outplayed the Hawks at every opportunity – besting the Hawks in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. However, the Celtics were let down by a poor free throw shooting performance (13/20, 65%) that might’ve swung this game in Atlanta’s favor.

In the end, this upset can all be traced back to Brad Stevens’s decision to rest his starters and direct backups in clutch time in favor of third-string and rarely used players such as Shane Larkin, Semi Ojeleye, Abdel Nader, Jabari Bird and Jonathan Gibson.

That decision helped to ease the Hawks into winning this game, at a time when wins are not particularly important for the Hawks – and losses are particularly concerning for the Celtics.

While we have discussed the idea that winning games is not a huge issue, this is definitely a shocking outcome and one that has far-reaching implications in the race for a high draft pick.

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This hard-fought victory, while entertaining and enjoyable, means that the Hawks have pulled even with the Dallas Mavericks for 4th-best odds in the lottery – giving them a roughly 42 percent chance at a Top 3 pick and only a 14 percent chance at the number one overall pick. Those odds are still good, but two straight improbable victories against two playoff contenders, means that the Hawks are doing themselves no favors in terms of lottery odds.

The Celtics showcased their superior talent throughout much of this game, with former Hawks great Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown dominating the proceedings at times through the first 3 quarters. Then the wheels came off for Boston, when the decision to rest the big-time players came down.

It still looked as if this third-string Celtics team was going to take this game, as they came out swinging to start the 4th quarter and jumped out to a big lead with a 9-2 run to start the quarter. But the Hawks counterpunched and fought back, culminating in an extremely clutch 4-point play from Mike Muscala as he got undercut by Ojeleye after a made three-pointer.

The two teams traded baskets after that, until Dewayne Dedmon hit a clutch corner three off a Taurean Prince assist to give the Hawks a 106-104 lead, which was their first lead since they were up 3-2 with 10:10 left in the first quarter. Dedmon followed that up with a big dunk, Isaiah Taylor hit a tough layup, John Collins drilled two free throws and the Hawks stole this game going away.