The way Al Horford has played defensively, there has been increasing talk about him as a possible Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
But considering the play of Kyrie Irving at both ends of the floor, and his ability to deliver in the clutch -like he did in Boston’s 110-107 win over Atlanta, it’s only a matter of time if he continues along this path that he’ll be in the mix for the league MVP award.
Yes, Irving has been that good and because of that, the same can be said for the Celtics (9-2) whose winning streak lives on following a 110-107 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Irving led all scorers with 35 points while Jayson Tatum (21 points, 8 rebounds) had a solid game as well. Celtics big man Al Horford had a near triple-double against his former team with 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder had a team-high 23 points while Dewayne Dedmon and Marco Belinelli each had 19 points.
During Boston’s nine-game winning streak which is the longest current streak in the NBA, this was the closest they had come to defeat.
A 3-pointer by Atlanta’s Malcolm Delaney put the Hawks ahead 103-101 with 2:06 to play, only for the Celtics to bounce back and close out the game with a 9-4 spurt that included big shots by Irving and Tatum.
The Hawks, coming off a big win at Cleveland on Sunday night, had played well enough for most of the game to pull off a second upset in as many nights.
A 3-pointer by Kent Bazemore put the Hawks ahead 96-95 only for Irving to come right back with a short jumper that put the Celtics back up by one, 97-96.
From the very outset of the game, it was clear that the Hawks weren’t going to allow Boston to extend their winning streak without a fight.
Atlanta scored the game’s first four points, but Boston countered with a 9-0 run.
That would be the largest lead by either team in the first quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 26-25 as Boston closed the quarter out with a 6-0 spurt.
The game remained relatively close in the second quarter, even as Kyrie Irving began to find his rhythm, tallying 15 of his 16 points in the second quarter which ended with the score tied at 54.
Boston’s defense got going in the third quarter, limiting the Hawks to 21 points on 7-for-21 shooting along with out-rebounding the Hawks 13-6 as they pulled ahead for an 82-75 lead going into the fourth quarter.