Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson and Al Horford took the floor to start the game against Atlanta. Dwight Howard won the tip, but Boston was able to strike first on an Isaiah Thomas three. Horford was once again met with boos at Atlanta, where he spent nine years and was selected to the All-Star Game four times (’10, ’11, ’15, ’16). The first break in action came halfway through the quarter, with the Hawks leading 18-12.
Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart were the first two players off the bench for Boston, replacing Johnson and Crowder. The Celtics started to play sloppy basketball, committing 4 turnovers in the first quarter. They got eaten on the glass, getting out-rebounded 14-7 en route to allowing eight second chance points. The Celtics allowed Atlanta’s lead to blossom to 14 before Marcus Smart hit a couple of big threes. Going into the second, the Celtics trailed 32-24 behind seven from Isaiah.
Five first-quarter offensive rebounds for the Hawks, on 14 misses. Zero offensive rebounds for the Celtics, on 10.
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) April 7, 2017
The start of the second was back and forth, and the Celts cut the lead to 4, forcing a timeout from Mike Budenholzer. Following a great defensive play by Smart in the low post, Horford found Brown in the corner for three. The Hawks hit a couple of threes, extending their lead to 10 with five minutes to play in the half. Marcus Smart missed a three at the buzzer, as the Celtics went into the half down 71-55. The Hawks were led by Taurean Prince, who had 18 while Isaiah did his best to keep the Celts around, putting up 16. Atlanta continued to dominate on the glass, winning the rebounding battle 26-13.
Hawks scored 82 points in a loss to Brooklyn on Sunday. Scored 71 points in the first half vs. Boston tonight.
— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) April 7, 2017
The story of the game continued to be rebounding, as the Hawks began the half once again dominating. The Celtics could not get a stop, going down by 20 early in the quarter. Dwight Howard went to work, forcing Al to pick up his 5th foul with just under seven minutes to go in the third. Jaylen Brown gave the Celtics a little spark to end the quarter, and a Marcus Smart buzzer beater cut the Hawks’ lead to 10 with 12 minutes left to play.
To start the fourth, Crowder set the tone by picking up a steal and drawing a couple of fouls. The Celtics played hard, but couldn’t get a bucket to cut into the lead. With 6:38 to go in the game, the Hawks led 107-95. Marcus Smart came up big, poking the ball loose leading to an and-1 slam from Bradley.
He couldn’t convert at the free throw line, though, as the Celtics missed six in the quarter. With 55 seconds left, Isaiah hit a big three to pull within five and drew a foul, giving possession back to the Celts. He missed a three, and Tim Hardaway converted on an and-1 to seal the deal. The Celtics lost 123-116, dropping to 50-29 on the season. Isaiah lead the way with 35 points, while Marcus Smart scored 18 and had a couple of big steals.
The Celtics’ next game is at 6:00 PM on Saturday (4/8) as they take on Kemba and company in Charlotte. They will look to figure things out with just three games left until the playoffs. The Celtics remain the two seed in the East, 1.5 games back of Cleveland and two games ahead of Toronto and Washington.