ATLANTA – The result on Thursday night at Atlanta was no different than it was for the Boston Celtics just 24 hours earlier at home – they lost.
And yet when you hear head coach Brad Stevens talk about Thursday’s 123-116 loss to the Hawks, their disappointment in the outcome is covered with optimism going forward.
“This is, sometimes you feel like you found something in a loss,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “I feel like we can build off this one. Last night (to Cleveland)? No.”
Stevens added, “I thought some different combinations played well. We guarded, competed at the end of the game to get ourselves back in it.”
The Celtics trailed by as many as 20 points, but rallied to within five points (116-111) after a 3-pointer by Isaiah Thomas made it a 116-111 game with 55.3 seconds to play.
But down the stretch, the Hawks managed to make all the big shots and key plays defensively for the win.
While the Celtics were disappointed in the outcome, they too shared Stevens’ optimistic outlook on the team’s second loss in as many nights.
“We feel more encouraged after (Wednesday) night,” Boston’s Jae Crowder told CSNNE.com. “We lost the game, obviously. What we took from this game, we played the way we wanted to play most of the second half. We dictated the game.
He added, “we dug ourselves a hole and the outcome is the outcome. We gotta stop coming out letting teams hit us first.”
Boston outscored Atlanta 61-52 in the second half despite shooting 38.8 percent in that span compared to 43.9 percent by the Hawks.
The Celtics were the more aggressive team in the second half which led to 13 Atlanta turnovers that they converted into 18 points, in addition to that aggression on offensively resulting in Boston spending a ton of time on the free throw line.
Boston was 17-for-24 from the line in the second half while the Hawks were 12-for-20. And remember, the Celtics started to foul Atlanta players intentionally near the end so their free throw attempts total is a bit skewed.
“These last few games we’ve been going through it a little bit,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “But we’re not going to panic. We’re just going to keep fighting.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Thursday’s game between Boston and Atlanta.
There were a number of Atlanta players that stepped up their play on Thursday, but few were as big a surprise as Prince. He finished with a career-high 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting to go with seven rebounds and four assists.
Despite the double teams and blitzing defenses that Thomas sees all the time, he still managed to lead all scorers with 35 points on 10-for-21 shooting with five rebounds and four assists.
He’s still coming off the bench since returning from his knee injury, but everyone knows Millsap is an elite, All-Star caliber starter. The Celtics found this out the hard way on Thursday as Millsap led the Hawks with 26 points and 12 rebounds with four assists and two steals to top it off.
The swollen left elbow must be feeling better, as Crowder had one of his best scoring games of the season with 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
He continues to give Atlanta great scoring punch from the shooting guard position, finishing with 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting with five rebounds and five assists.
Boston was a different team in the second half of Thursday’s game, and Smart’s strong play at both ends of the floor had a lot to do with that. He finished with 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting which included him connecting on five of his nine 3-point attempts. He also tallied seven assists, six steals and four rebounds.
For the second time in as many games, Horford had a bad game at both ends of the floor. He finished with four points on 1-for-8 shooting with five rebounds and three assists. It should go without saying that the Celtics will need more from him as they try and close out the season with some semblance of momentum heading into the playoffs.
Celtics’ first half Defense
It was turnstile city in the first half against the Celtics defense that showed very little resistance to an Atlanta Hawks squad that got whatever they wanted, scoring 71 first-half points.