Posted on March 16, 2019, by Travis Pulver

The Boston Celtics have been trying hard to find the right mix. They have been trying to find the groove that everyone expected such a talented, young team to be in when the season started. However, on Saturday against a dangerous Atlanta Hawks team, they looked like they might find it—until they didn’t.

What started out as a good game for the Celtics devolved into a not-so-good one before ending with the Celtics escaping with a nine-point win, 129-120.

Via @TSN_Sports

The game got off to a fast start with neither team playing much defense and lots of scoring. Kyrie Irving led the charge for the Celtics with 12 points as Boston got out to a 43-36 lead after one. In the second, the offensive output quieted down a little or both sides.

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But Boston still led the way and extended their lead to 12 points, 74-62, at the half.

It looked like the Celtics might put the game away in the third as they led by as much as 25 points and often led by at least 20. However, their game fell apart late in the quarter and the Hawks were able to close the gap down to 13-points, 105-92.

Atlanta kept pressing in the fourth and managed to tie the game up at 112-112 about midway through the quarter. That was when the Celtics woke up and went on a 13-2 to regain the lead, 125-114, and control of the game with 2:43 to play.

The Hawks were able to get within five with a minute left to play but failed to make another shot.

“It’s maddening because what happened in the end of third, early fourth, was they ratcheted up their pressure and we were on our heels and you could see it,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said after the game (ESPN).

Kyrie Irving nearly recorded another triple-double with 31 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. While he had a strong game, afterwards he talked about the team needing to play smarter basketball:

“To be mature about having the lead, you’ve got to keep the pressure on them and keep playing smart basketball on both ends of the floor. We didn’t do that.”

As nice as the win is, the Celtics would probably be willing to give it to the Hawks if it meant everyone could walk away healthy. Gordon Hayward was lost in the first minute of the game to a strained neck. Also, Al Horford dealt with a sore knee as well during the game.

Trae Young led the way for the Hawks with 26 points followed by John Collins with 20. Atlanta will try to get win No. 25 on the season Sunday night when they visit the Magic in Orlando.

The win is the second in a row for the Celtics and fifth in their last six. But they remain the No. 5 seed, a game and a half behind the Pacers and 76ers. Boston will not be back in action until Monday night when they host the Denver Nuggets.  

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