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Streaky Celtics falter at end in one-point loss to Hawks

12.31.13 at 3:30 pm ET
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In a topsy-turvey game befitting of much of their play thus far in the 2013-14 season, the Celtics could not put the hammer down after opening up sizable leads in both the first and second halves, ultimately missing five potential go-ahead shots in the final 90 seconds of the game en route to a 92-91 loss at home to the Hawks. The loss dropped the Celtics to 13-18, 1 1/2 games behind Toronto in the Atlantic Division.

The Celtics, who led 23-20 after the first quarter, threatened to blow the Hawks out of the building with a 13-0 run to open the second quarter, with Boston’s lead eventually ballooning to 18, at 42-24. But Atlanta closed the half on a 15-2 run of its own, with the Celtics enduring a stretch of more than 10 minutes (the final 5:52 of the second to the 7:26 mark of the third quarter) without a field goal. The Hawks laid claim to a six-point lead (54-48) with 4:55 left in the third.

From there, however, the Celtics bounced back with a 9-0 run that was punctuated by Jordan Crawford‘s 3-pointer with 3:16 to go in the third, giving Boston a 57-54 lead that it extended to as much as a nine-point lead halfway through the fourth. But the streaky Celtics once again ran off the rails after taking an 85-76 lead, as 10 unanswered points by Atlanta allowed the Hawks to claim a one-point lead with just over three minutes left. From there, the lead changed hands six times, with Jeff Teague‘s two free throws with 1:30 left (following a foul by Avery Bradley) finally giving the Hawks a lead they would not relinquish. The Celtics missed five shots down the stretch with an opportunity to take the win, the last coming when Crawford missed a 10-footer as time expired.

Kelly Olynyk led the Celtics with 21 points off the bench, shooting 8-of-11 including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Kris Humphries added 18 points and 10 boards off the bench. But the strong effort of the reserves was undone by an ugly performance from the starting five of Brandon Bass (9 points, 2-of-6 shooting), Jeff Green (8 points, 4-of-10), Jared Sullinger (2 points, 1-of-6 before leaving with a bruised wrist), Crawford (8 points, 3-of-15) and Bradley (8 points, 2-of-10). Meanwhile, the Celtics had no interior answer for Paul Millsap, who scored 34 points (on 12-of-19 shooting) with 15 boards.

After splitting a two-game homestand, the Celtics will next hit the road to face the Bulls on Thursday.

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