BOSTON – You hear coaches and players often refer to the NBA as a make-miss league.
When summing up what happened in Boston’s 114-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, sadly it was that simple.
Dennis Schroder led the six double-figure scorers for the Hawks with 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting.
Boston got many of the shots that they have been getting throughout this run in which they came into Monday’s game having won 11 of their previous 14 games.
The Celtics (38-22) have now lost three of their last four games. Life won’t get any easier for them with defending NBA champion Cleveland coming into town on Wednesday.
We have seen the Celtics make some miraculous comebacks under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens, but Celtics fans understandably began hitting the exits with more than three minutes to play and Boston looking up at a 108-84 deficit.
Credit the Hawks defense which played with a greater sense of urgency, the kind you would expect from a team that had come in riding a three-game losing streak.
Meanwhile, Boston looked like the team that we have seen most of this season which relies heavily on their perimeter shooting to win games.
That’s not all that surprising against the Hawks whose interior defense is anchored by Dwight Howard.
Howard, who had 17 points and 12 rebounds, also had a pair of blocked shots and altered many others.
But the Celtics spent a good chunk of the second half with Howard out of the game.
Howard, an absolute unstoppable force for the Hawks all game, picked up his second technical foul (an automatic ejection) for hanging on the rim following a put-back dunk with 4:03 to play in the third and Atlanta ahead 74-65.
He had picked up his first technical foul for shoving Al Horford earlier in the game.
But with Howard out, the Celtics still couldn’t take advantage of an Atlanta team that was much more vulnerable to dribble-drive penetration.
In fact, Atlanta began to pull away and took their biggest lead up to that point of the game, 84-69, following a 3-pointer by Tim Hardaway Jr. late in the third quarter which ended with the Hawks ahead 84-71.
And Boston’s struggles stemmed from their inability to make open shots.
For the game, the Celtics shot 39.1 percent from field which is a somewhat inflated figure considering the mini-run Boston's backups went on in the final minute or two of play.
Not even the usual high-scoring exploits of Isaiah Thomas could save the day.
The NBA’s leading scorer in the fourth quarter, Thomas had another sub-par night in the game’s final quarter of play.
He led the Celtics with 19 points, but only two came in the fourth quarter. And by failing to reach 20 points, Thomas’ franchise-record of consecutive games with 20 or more comes to an end at 43 straight.