Celtics

Celtics blow 27-point lead, lost to Hawks in double o.t.

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Celtics blow 27-point lead, lost to Hawks in double o.t.

ATLANTA Getting out of the rut that has become the 2012-13 season for the Boston Celtics isn't going to be easy.

And maybe the worst setback of them all happened Friday night as Boston blew a ridiculously large lead in losing 123-111 in double overtime to Atlanta.

Boston led by as many as 27 points - 27 points! - only to turn in one of the worst second half showings of the season that allowed Atlanta to get back into the game and eventually pull out the victory.

Josh Smith converted a 3-point play early in the second overtime. Soon after that, Kevin Garnett, who had 24 points, picked up his sixth personal foul trying to grab his own miss.

With Garnett on the bench, Al Horford wasted no time going straight to the rim for a lay-up that put the Hawks ahead 112-107 with 3:21 to play in the second overtime.

There was still plenty of time left, but the C's were an exhausted bunch at this point when you consider they played less than 24 hours earlier while the Hawks were at home, resting up for tonight's game.

Still, that's no excuse for losing this game, not after dominating play with such an authoritative manner only to give it away.

Boston (20-23) has now lost six straight for the first time this season.

The C's haven't gone this long without a win since the 2006-2007 season when they had three separate losing streaks of six games of more, one of which was a franchise-worst 18 straight.

All of Boston's losses have hurt, but it's hard to imagine one stinging more than this one.

Even with such a huge lead, the C's pushed their lead back to double figures (94-84) in the fourth only to see it wiped out when Horford made a pair of free throws to cap off a 14-4 run to tie the game at 98 with one minute to play.

Boston had a chance to regain the lead, only for Garnett to miss what would have been the go-ahead, game-winning lay-up. The C's got yet another chance when Devin Harris lost the ball out of bounds with 29.2 seconds to play after video review by the official overturned the initial call which gave the ball to the Hawks.

Rondo missed a floater in the lane, but was able to get his hands back on the ball and force a jump ball with Kyle Korver who is about five inches taller.

Atlanta got the jump ball with 3.7 seconds to play, and immediately called a time-out.

Josh Smith missed a potential winning lay-up as time expired which led to the first overtime. Boston's Paul Pierce had a chance to win it at the end of the first overtime, but his shot was well short of the rim.

Celtics thought it would be good . . . but this good?

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Celtics thought it would be good . . . but this good?

After arriving in Boston and spending some time with his new teammates, Kyrie Irving felt good about this group doing big things this season. 

But when asked about the experience thus far being what he thought it would be, Irving responded, “It’s probably exceeded that.”

He’s not alone. 

Few would have envisioned the Celtics (15-2) would have the best record in the NBA at this point, let alone be riding a 15-game winning streak which ranks as the fifth-best winning streak in franchise history. 

Irving and his Celtics teammates will try and keep it going tonight when they take on the Dallas Mavericks.

Irving’s ability to mesh with his teammates and still find success was among the many questions out there when the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off the blockbuster trade this offseason. 

Blending in has not been an issue for Irving, bolstered by the reality that his game stands out. 

We saw that in Boston’s 110-99 win over the Atlanta Hawks, which was a game in which Irving had 30 points on an insanely efficient 10-for-12 shooting night. 

There were many factors that went into Irving’s strong night against the Hawks, but he said it really came down to one thing above all else.

“I just made some damn shots for once,” Irving quipped. “That right there kind of made it seem better than I actually been shooting over the start of the season.  It would also contribute to being able to be in the right spots and guys being selfless in their approach driving to the basket or getting into the paint. It’s tell-tale sign of all of us getting more comfortable.”

Here are five below-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on as the Boston Celtics face the Dallas Mavericks, with Boston gunning for its 16th straight win. 

BROWN’S POSITIVE PLAY

Jaylen Brown has been on a bit of an offensive tear of late, the last being a career-high 27-point performance in Boston’s win over Atlanta. But even more telling is how well things seem to flow with him on the floor. Brown’s plus/minus this season is +146 which is tops among all players in the Eastern Conference. His closest competition in the East? That would teammate Al Horford whose plus/minus this season is +143. In addition, Horford has had a positive plus/minus in every game this season. 

YOGI FERRELL

You can count Yogi Ferrell among the ones that got away from Brad Stevens when he was coaching at Butler. Ferrell, who played at Indiana, was a player on Stevens’ radar when he was coaching at Butler. “I recruited Yogi, unsuccessfully,” Stevens told reporters in Dallas. While Ferrell came on strong as an undrafted free agent with the Mavericks last season, Stevens said there’s nothing about Ferrell’s game now that he didn’t see when he tried to woo him to Butler. “He would have been awfully good at Butler,” Stevens said.

HOMECOMING

While Marcus Smart grew up in Flower Mound, Texas (less than an hour from Dallas), tonight’s game is a homecoming of sorts for another Celtics player – Semi Ojeleye. The 6-foot-7 forward played at SMU which is located in Dallas. A second-round pick by Boston in last June’s NBA draft, Ojeleye has been among the many surprise performers for the Celtics this season. “We knew he could be a versatile defender,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Probably has exceeded our expectations in that regard with his ability to guard one (point guard) through five (center) at certain times. And he’s been pretty consistent shooting the ball. Right now, embracing that kind of 3-and-D role is what he has to do and he’s done it well.”

DEEP DRAFT CLASS

The Boston Celtics struck gold by drafting Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick. But as you look at the teams that had lottery picks in last June’s NBA draft, few come away feeling disappointed or discouraged by the player selected. The Dallas Mavericks are among the teams pleased with their first-round pick, Dennis Smith Jr. who was selected with the ninth overall pick. He has emerged as one of the top rookies this year, averaging 14.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. And yes, he was a player that was on the Celtics’ radar leading up to last June’s draft. “We had Dennis in and he was really impressive,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s a guy that’s going to have a great career and he’s got good veteran players around him to help kick it off.”

DIRK NOWITZKI

The numbers aren’t anywhere close to what we’ve seen for the bulk of Dirk Nowitzki’s illustrious career that’s now in Year 20. But there is a demeanor about him that seems to be at peace with where he’s at basketball-wise, even if the wins aren’t nearly as plentiful as he’s accustomed to. “I appreciate his game a ton,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Just watching him talk on the court, cheer on the bench, sit at the scorer’s table with a smile on his face. You can’t play this long and be this good this long if you don’t’ love it. Everybody says they love it, but he’s got a different level of passion. You can feel it, you can see it. You root for guys like him to have success.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's need to play Smart in Dallas

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE