The Hawks got off to a fast start, but fell apart and lost to the Celtics on Saturday night, 89-81. Josh Smith finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The AJC’s Chris Vivlamore reports.
The Hawks had a chance.
They could have served notice to the nemesis Celtics that they are that team anymore. The team the Celtics have owned in recent years.
However, the Hawks let a 19-point second-quarter lead evaporate – in less than 12 minutes – in a 89-81 loss to the Celtics Saturday night at Philips Arena.
The Celtics got physical with the Hawks and they did not respond – a fact that had coach Larry Drew ‘concerned’ following the game.
“This is a very, very disappointing loss,” Drew said. “Probably, for me, the most disappointing loss of the season for the mere fact of playing against a team we have battled in the past and we’ve seen this type of scenario before where we have played well and then when it starts to get a little bit physical, when they start playing a little bit rougher, when they start make things a little more difficult for us, we don’t respond. That was clearly what happened tonight.
“I’m concerned because this is the NBA and you have to expect that. When you play against teams that do smack you, you have to respond. It’s just the way it is. Everybody has to do it. Every team in this league has to do it. When you don’t’ do it you get labeled. You get a tag on you. That’s the last thing I want to happen to my ball club.”
The Hawks lost six of nine game games against the Celtics last season, including a first-round playoff defeat (4-2). The only regular-season game the Hawks won came when the Celtics played without Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. The Celtics also won the memorable seven-game playoff series in 2008 when much of the history between the teams began.
The Celtics entered the third quarter trailing by 15 points. They came out of the period leading by nine points, 71-62. They used a 33-9 third quarter run to erase the deficit as the Hawks shot a meager 14.3 percent (2 of 9) coming out of halftime.
“You can’t compound things,” Drew said. “You can’t keep turning the ball over. You can’t have bad shot selection. You can’t have defensive breakdowns. That just adds more and more problems to the equation. And then you sense the body language. And I sensed it, honestly, at the end of the second quarter because they were playing us a little bit physical. I’m sure they went into halftime and said ‘Guys, all we have to do is keep climbing, keep pushing up in them, and we’ll get back in the game.’ That’s exactly what happened.”
The Hawks (20-12) have lost two straight and three of their past four games. After managing to cut their deficit to five points, 79-74, in the fourth quarter the Celtics scored six straight points to regain a comfortable margin.
Lou Williams led the Hawks with a season-high 28 points, 21 coming in the first half. Jeff Teague added 17 points and Josh Smith had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“Defensively, I think they did a great job of making it tough for us to catch,” Williams said. “They were pressuring everything. They made it tough for Jeff to get us into plays. They made it tough for us on our in-bounds plays. That’s been their makeup for a number of years. They’ve always been known as a defensive team and tonight we got the worst of it.”
The Celtics (16-17) have won two straight after a four-game losing skid.
Rondo had his 25th career triple-double with 14 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds. Pierce had 26 points and Garnett added 14 points.
Rondo escaped a possible ejection and fine when he made contact with official Rodney Mott while arguing a called for a charge with 3:19 remaining in the third quarter.
The Hawks led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter and 19 points in the second quarter. They took a 53-38 lead into halftime.
Williams’ 21 first-half points tied the team record for most points in a half this season. Smith also had 21 in a Dec. 26 game against the Pistons. Williams scored 17 of the Hawks’ first 23 points, all in the opening quarter, as the team shot 60 percent (12 of 20) from the field. They ended the half shooting 52.5 percent, including 7 of 15 3-point attempts.
The big lead was for naught – gone in minutes. The Hawks are left licking their wounds it what could have been a statement game.
Drew canceled a planned day off Sunday and called a team practice.
“I don’t really get it how an opponent can get (us) out of the game for 48 minutes,” Zaza Pachulia said. “I don’t know what else to tell you. It’s all about us. We should all look in the mirror, all of us, the whole team.”
- Chris Vivlamore
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