Celtics

Horford providing Hawks with big boost

742650.jpg

Horford providing Hawks with big boost

BOSTON When Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford got the green light to resume playing with the Hawks, his goal was to help in any way he could.

How does 40 minutes a night sound?

That wasn't exactly the goal for Horford or the Hawks. But two games into his return to the roster, that's exactly how things played out in Atlanta's 87-86 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 5 that kept their season alive.

Horford's 19-point, 11-rebound performance came in 41 minutes, significantly more court time than he or his head coach Larry Drew anticipated.

Will we see it again tonight?

Horford didn't sound too optimistic about a second straight game of 40-plus minutes.

"That might be a little bit of a stretch," Horford said. "I will, however, come out and give productive minutes. That's my whole thing. I want to have a positive impact on the game. But I'm going to need those guys to be ready, just in case.

"Back-to-back, 40-minute nights," Horford added, "I don't know about that."

Hawks coach Larry Drew had no idea of how much he would get from Horford, who had been out with a torn pectoral muscle since Jan. 11.

Josh Smith isn't totally shocked that Horford has been so effective after such a long lay-off.

"He has the freshest legs in the series," Smith said. "Why not play him? He's healthy. He feels good. He's contributing. The game that he had last game, the way he was helping us out . . . leave him out there."

No need to tell Drew that. He understands that the Hawks, while not wanting to put Horford's health in danger, will play him as long as Horford can go.

"He really has been a surprise," Drew said. "Having been out as long as he has and to play as if he hasn't missed a beat, says a lot about him."

Drew added, "I thought he could get out there and compete, but in short stretches. But he has shown an amazing amount of endurance. He's an amazing guy."

And while Horford doesn't anticipate having another game of 40-plus minutes tonight, he understands that the Hawks are in all-hands-on-deck mode which may require him to once again crack the 40-minutes played plateau.

"I'm saying I can't play 40, but if the game is going how it's going and I have to play it, I probably will," Horford said.

"It's an elimination game. I have to be ready for anything the coach calls."

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

The Boston Celtics trail by double digits. The Celtics rally to make it relatively close by halftime. Boston continues to gain ground in the third, pull it out in the fourth.

Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

That has been the Celtics’ mantra this season, with the latest chapter in their comeback narrative being a 110-99 win at Atlanta.

“We need to put an emphasis on playing with space and getting the ball to the other side of the floor,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It just stuck too much early on. We were staring at some post-ups that if we got it to the other side, maybe you could take advantage of.”

MORE:

Boston (15-2) fell behind by as many as 16 points against the Hawks (3-13), the second straight game the Celtics have rallied from a double-digit deficit.

In Boston’s 92-88 win over Golden State on Thursday, the Celtics fell behind by as many as 17 before rallying for their most impressive win of the season.

That said, it still shouldn’t take away from what happened on Saturday against an Atlanta team that despite their record, has shown signs of playing better in their recent games.

Players are aware of the penchant they’ve shown thus far for falling behind only to mount a furious comeback for the win.

“We don’t try to (go down early),” said Kyrie Irving following Saturday’s win which extended their winning streak to 15 straight which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history. “Some teams, they go on runs and whether that be us giving up some easy ones or giving up some turnovers or doing things we can correct. When we do correct them, it turns into a different game.”

And that is what makes this stretch of play so impressive.

The Celtics have not played a full game; instead they have had stretches of good play that have often masked their mistakes early in the game.

That’s why head coach Brad Stevens, obviously pleased with the team’s success, knows as well as anyone that his team has to become more consistent in their play if they are to get the most out of these wins and continue to build off of them and achieve their ultimate goal – getting back to the NBA Finals.

“We’re going to keep playing,” Stevens said. “But the biggest thing is, we can’t keep digging these holes.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

When it comes to the top backcourts in the NBA, you seldom hear about Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown.

That may soon be changing if they have more games like the one they delivered on Saturday as Boston put together a solid second half to pull away from the Atlanta Hawks, 110-99.

Irving had a game-high 30 points which was his second game with at least 30 points scored – both against Atlanta.

MORE:

And Brown, who had a strong 22-point performance in Boston’s win over Golden State on Thursday, was even better against the Hawks in tallying a career-high 27 points.

We all know about Irving who has established himself as one of the NBA’s top guards.

But is Brown on the way?

One thing Brown won’t have to develop going forward is, confidence.

He has long maintained that he believes he’ll be among the best in the league. It’s just a matter of him performing at a high level at both ends of the floor, consistently.

“I’ve always had that confidence, I can play with the best in the world,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin following the win over Atlanta which extended Boston’s winning streak to 15 in a row. “It’s just a matter of coming out, doing it. My teammates found me tonight. We had a good team win tonight.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

 

STARS

Jaylen Brown

Back in his home state of Georgia, Jaylen Brown delivered another monster game for the Celtics by scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting with four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving

Irving had his most efficient game this season for the Celtics, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go with four rebounds and five assists.

Dennis Schroder

Atlanta’s best scorer delivering a strong 23-point, 9-assist performance for the Hawks.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum

He only had 14 points, but they all came in the third quarter and they included a few crowd-quieting dunks.

John Collins

He came into the league with the reputation of being a high motor player, and he has not disappointed. His hustle and energy led to him tallying 18 points and seven rebounds.

Marcus Morris

When the offense struggled mightily in the first half, it was Morris’ scoring that kept them within striking distance. He finished with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second quarter.

Kent Bazemore

He was Atlanta’s number two scoring option most of the night, and finished with 19 points.

 

DUDS

Boston’s first quarter defense

The Celtics can’t keep digging themselves these early holes, expecting they will turn it on and find a way to climb out of them. The Hawks led 35-20, fueled in large part by shooting 64.7 percent (11-for-17) in addition to out-rebounding Boston 8-6.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE