Dec 31, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague (0) reacts after missing a three point shot against the Boston Celtics during the second quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Hawks battle back in 92-91 win over Boston Celtics


To tell you the truth, I have no idea how the Atlanta Hawks went into Boston and defeated the Celtics 92-91.

But, they did.

Paul Millsap went firmly into beast mode, scoring 34 points and 15 rebounds to lead the way for Atlanta, and the Hawks were able to overcome what was a comically rough start to the game. The Hawks began the game shooting 1-for-9, and despite a small “run” to end the 1st quarter, things didn’t get much better for a long, long time. Boston blitzed ahead with a 17-1 run between the 1st and 2nd quarters, taking a 36-20 lead, and even lengthened their advantage to 18 before the Hawks could recover.

Fortunately, Atlanta wouldn’t go down so easily, and they showed their fighting spirit before the end of the half. The Hawks (led by Millsap, once again) finished the 2nd quarter on a 15-2 run, cutting the lead to just 5 at 44-39, and that in itself was amazing. The 39-point 1st half tied the season-low for the Hawks, and in the process of trailing by (only) 5 points, the Hawks shot 28% (!) from the field and 19% from 3 in the half.

The second half was a bit more “balanced”, but the Hawks began the 3rd with a 6-0 run (lengthening their overall surge to 21-2) to take the lead, and while it was a back-and-forth game throughout, they were firmly back in contention. With 4 minutes to play in the game, the Hawks trailed by 5 (85-80), but they weren’t deterred, and the duo of Millsap and Jeff Teague scored 10 of the final 12 points to take a 92-91 lead with 1:30 remaining.

Fittingly, neither team would score in the final 90 seconds, as the Hawks (hilariously) botched a lengthy final possession that included a missed lay-up. Boston’s Jordan Crawford (a former Hawk) saw his game-winning 3-point attempt go begging, however, and the Hawks escaped with a 1-point victory.

The aforementioned Millsap was the single biggest reason for the Hawks victory, providing them with an offensive lift on a night where nothing seemed to be going right on that end. It was the second career game for Paul in which went he went north of 30 points and 15 rebounds, and for good measure, he added 2 steals and 2 blocks to a dominant, all-court performance. In support of Paul, Jeff Teague did add 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists, but in all fairness, the only non-Millsap member of the Hawks who had what I would consider to be an “above-average” game was Cartier Martin.

Atlanta’s defense did show up, and that had to be pleasing for Mike Budenholzer, especially during a day game that featured an 18-point deficit. Boston was held to just 41.7% from the field and 25% from deep, and outside of a breakout effort from rookie big man Kelly Olynyk (21 points in 24 minutes) and an under-the-radar from Kris Humphries (18 points, 10 rebounds off the bench), the Hawks were able to control Boston’s “big guns”. In fact, the entire starting lineup for the Celtics finished with on-court numbers at -14 or worse, and that’s a big-time testament to the effort level of the Hawks.

It certainly wasn’t the easiest execution of the run, but Kyle Korver extended his NBA-record streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer. Korver needed 6 attempts before knocking down his first triple, but it was a highly impressive one, as it came on a very difficult 4-point play at the 6:09 mark. If it wasn’t his most difficult effort to continue the streak, it was quite high on the list, and even on an off night (he finished 5-11 shooting from the field and 1-6 from 3), Korver was crucial in team defense and floor spacing, providing a game-high +21 rating when on the floor and 14 important points.

On a day with some unfathomably bad offensive numbers (Shelvin Mack and Lou Williams combined to shoot 1-for-17, for instance), it is nearly impossible to imagine how Atlanta got this win, and yet, Coach Bud and company escaped with one. The rest of the season may not be all smiles and rainbows in the absence of Al Horford, and frankly, the first half did illuminate some big-picture issues, but in the end, the Hawks showed up and played an incredibly gutty brand of basketball in the final 36 minutes (on virtually no rest, mind you), and they’ve certainly earned a few days off.

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