The Hawks made all six of their free throw attempts in the final 31.8 seconds of Wednesday night’s game to upend the Celtics in Atlanta. Those free throws sealed Atlanta’s victory, but the biggest shot of the night was hit a few minutes prior.
Boston stormed back from a 14-point deficit in the second half to take a nine-point lead with less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Celtics had clearly outplayed the Hawks over the first 18-plus minutes of the second half, but Atlanta, which is fighting for a playoff berth, refused to give up.
After Elton Brand slammed home a dunk with just over five minutes remaining, Jeff Teague scored five points and dished out an assist to spark the Hawks to a 10-0 run immediately following their nine-point deficit. The spurt, capped by Teague finding Kyle Korver for a 3, put Atlanta on top 90-89 with 3:42 remaining in the game.
All of the momentum had shifted into the home team’s corner at that point. Boston was on its heels and the Hawks were soaring. That is, until Jared Sullinger cut their wings off with a man-sized trey from the top of the key.
Sullinger’s 3-pointer halted a scoreless stretch of nearly two and a half minutes for Boston. The Celtics celebrated the shot. Even Danny Ainge, who was a guest analyst on the Comcast SportsNet New England broadcast of the game, celebrated the shot. Sullinger backpedaled down the court with a look on his face that seemed to say, “Alright, we’re back on track. We’ve got this game.”
It truly felt that way immediately following the shot. At least for a few seconds... until everyone realized that the Celtics had forgotten to match up at the other end.
Atlanta pushed the ball off of Sullinger’s make and Teague found Korver wide open in the left corner of the court. Korver, who holds the NBA record for consecutive games with at least one made 3-pointer, literally had no one within 15 feet of him. The sharpshooter rose up for the 3 and hit nothing but net to regain all of the momentum and give the Hawks a 93-92 lead.
Brad Stevens commented on the play after the contest by saying, “That changes the game… he was wide open.”
The coach couldn’t have made a more accurate statement. Boston looked deflated after that shot and Atlanta went on to score another six straight points after the Korver 3. The Hawks carried that momentum down to the final buzzer for a 105-97 win.
Key Box Score Line
Avery Bradley’s right ankle and Achilles seem to be just doing fine on Wednesday night. Just ask the Atlanta Hawks.
Bradley returned from a three-game absence to score a game-high 24 points against Atlanta. He was electric on offense, shooting 8-of-16 from the field, 4-of-4 from long range and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line.
With Danny Ainge watching from the color analyst seat at midcourt, the fourth-year guard put on a show from all over the court. He nailed his 3s. He hit shots off of the dribble. He even put home a couple of layups in traffic off of those patented backdoor cuts he’s made famous with Rajon Rondo. Bradley’s offensive performance garnered rave reviews from Ainge, at one time causing the Celtics president of basketball operations to say that the guard has the potential to become “unguardable.”
That’s a bit ironic, because all Bradley is known for is his ability to guard. He also showcased those skills Wednesday night by tying for the game high in steals with three rips. Bradley also pitched in four rebounds and two assists during his 35 minutes of action.
A guy like Bradley doesn’t rack up those numbers in an NBA game if he’s ailing. He looked healthy and explosive Wednesday night.
Box Score Nuggets
- Avery Bradley (4-of-4) and Kyle Korver (4-of-6) tied for the game high in 3-pointers with four apiece.
- Atlanta dished out 30 assists while Boston totaled 25.
- The Celtics limited the Hawks to just five second-chance points despite being outrebounded 43-39.
- Bradley led all scorers with 24 points.
- Two players from each team logged double-doubles.
- Rajon Rondo led the game in assists with 12 and also scored 19 points.
- Jared Sullinger led Boston in rebounds with 11 and also scored 15 points.
- Atlanta shot 52.6 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point range.
- All five of Atlanta's starters finished with a positive plus/minus rating, while all five of Boston's starters finished with a negative plus/minus rating.
- Six Hawks dished out at least three assists.
- Rondo and Bradley each grabbed three steals.
- Six Hawks scored in double-figures, led by 19 points from Jeff Teague.
Quote of the Night
We only had stretches where we defended well. We did not have a great defensive game. We got hot in the third quarter and early fourth quarter and made some shots and kind of pushed it out, and then we fell short. Brad Stevens on Boston losing a 19-point lead in the second halfMore quotes >>