Celtics look to avenge collapse against Hawks

By Thomson Reuters Mar 28, 2024 | 8:39 AM

The Boston Celtics will get a chance to avenge their embarrassing Monday meltdown against the Hawks when the teams meet for the second time this week on Thursday in Atlanta.

The host Hawks overcame a 30-point deficit and ended Boston’s nine-game winning streak with a 120-118 victory. It was the biggest comeback in Hawks history and the largest comeback in the NBA this season.

“We let our foot off the gas in the second half and they got a great rhythm,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Boston’s Kristaps Porzingis added, “You give (hope) to that type of team, you relax too much and give them some open looks, those guys can make shots. They’re an offensive-minded team and they got it going and then it’s a tough battle to kind of bring it back to what we wanted. We just gave them too much life.”

Boston leads the season series 2-1, having won the first two games in Boston, 113-103 on Nov. 26 and 125-117 on Feb. 7.

The Celtics remained in Atlanta between games for the two-game series. But in a scheduling quirk, the Hawks hosted — and beat — the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.

“It’s weird playing (Boston) on a back-to-back, but there’s no excuses in this league,” Atlanta’s Garrison Mathews said. “We’ve got to come ready to play. We know they’re going to try to get us back and we have to come ready to play.”

Atlanta (33-39) has won three in a row after its 120-106 win over Portland and remains 10th in the Eastern Conference standings. The Hawks were unable to pick up ground Wednesday on the ninth-place Chicago Bulls, who won to remain 1 1/2 games ahead, but also did not lose ground to the 11th-place Brooklyn Nets, who also won and trail Atlanta by 5 1/2 games.

The Hawks continue to ride the offense of Dejounte Murray. He scored 30 points against the Blazers and has put up 28-plus in three of his past four games.

Atlanta, playing without three starters and a key reserve, is getting contributions from different backups each night. Mathews scored a season-high 21 points against Portland. Vit Krejci matched his career high with 16 points vs. Boston.

“This team has been unselfish,” Atlanta coach Quin Snyder said.

Boston (57-15) has clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, owns the best road record in the league (25-12), has the best offensive rating in the NBA (122.5) and ranks second in defensive rating (110.7). Last season, the Celtics became the third team in NBA history to finish in the top three in both offensive and defensive rating.

The Celtics logged their 17th 70-point first half of the season on Monday, a franchise record that matches the NBA record for a single season.

The Hawks announced Wednesday that All-Star Trae Young has made a positive recovery in his recovery from surgery to repair a ligament in the little finger of his left hand. Young has missed 16 games since being hurt in the Feb. 23 game against Toronto. The team has not provided a timetable for his return to play.

The Atlanta lineup also remains without Jalen Johnson (right ankle sprain), Saddiq Bey (torn left ACL) and key reserve Onyeka Okongwu (sprained left toe).

–Field Level Media