Celtics Drop 1 1/2 Games Behind Cavaliers For NBA East Lead With 123-116 Loss To Hawks
Paul Millsap scored 26 points and had 12 rebounds in a reserve role, Tim Hardaway Jr. contributed 23 and the Atlanta Hawks ended a two-game skid with a 123-116 home victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night.
Paul Millsap, Tim Hardaway Jr. Lead Hawks to Win vs Celtics
Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 35 points, and Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart added 24 and 18 respectively. The Celtics (50-29) have now lost two straight after winning five of seven, and trail Cleveland by 1 1/2 games for the Eastern Conference lead, but are still two games ahead of third-place Toronto.
The fifth-place Hawks, (40-38) who led by 20 in the third quarter, moved one-half game ahead of Milwaukee. The NBA regular season ends and playoffs begin next week.
Atlanta rookie Taurean Prince scored a career-high 20 points, and Dennis Schroder added 18 for the Hawks, who had lost nine of 11.
Millsap, who is recovering from a left knee injury, said steady ball movement and strong pick-and-rolls helped give his team a strong offensive performance. The four-time All-Star didn’t start for the second straight game due to his knee soreness. He is out for Friday’s game at Cleveland, which means he will miss his ninth game in the last 11, although he’s expected to return to the starting lineup Sunday against the Cavs.
”That’s how we’ve got to play,” he said. ”This is our team, and if we continue to do that, we’ll be able to score.”
One day after losing at home by 23 points to the reigning champion Cavaliers, the Celtics allowed 71 points in the first half and trailed by 16 at the break.
Boston was also weak defensively and was out-rebounded 52-38 by Atlanta, in addition to being called for too many fouls.
Nevertheless, Celtics coach Brad Stevens seemed satisfied with part of his team’s performance.
”Sometimes you feel like you found something in a loss, and I feel like we can build on this one,” Stevens said. ”Last night, no. This one, yeah.”
Schroder hit a straightaway 3 to make it 116-107 with 2:07 left before Thomas’ corner 3 with 55.3 seconds remaining to trim the lead to five. The Celtics didn’t get any closer the rest of the way.
Al Horford was playing in his second game back in Atlanta after spending his first nine seasons with the Hawks. Despite Horford’s hard work on Thursday, fans at Philips Arena still booed him every time he got the ball, visibly upset he left as a free agent.
”The most frustrating thing for me was the fouls,” he said. ”It just took my out of my rhythm. That was hard for me.”
Dwight Howard’s streak of double-doubles ended at ten games, his longest since last season with Houston and the longest Hawks streak since Kevin Willis had 21 straight in 1991-92.
The Celtics next visit the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.
The Hawks visit Cleveland on Friday and then host the Cavs on Sunday. Cleveland has won 12 of 13 in the series, including the playoffs. In a 135-130 win last month, the Cavs hit 25 3-pointers, an NBA regular-season record.
ATLANTA, GA – JANUARY 13: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics drives against Malcolm Delaney #5 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on January 13, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.