Sunday, March 7

Trae Young and Hawks crown two-game series for Celtics

The visiting Atlanta Hawks will have a chance to test their newfound determination in the fourth quarter on Friday when they play their second straight game against the Boston Celtics.

The Hawks ended their four-game losing streak by beating the Celtics 122-114 on Wednesday night. The victory also snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Celtics and was Atlanta’s first win in Boston since April 8, 2018.

The Hawks will have assistant coach Nate McMillan back at the helm on Friday. He is replacing head coach Lloyd Pierce, who returned to Atlanta for the birth of his second child.

The victory reversed a fighting trend in the fourth quarter for the Hawks. It was the seventeenth time they had been ahead in the fourth quarter, but it is the tenth time they managed to close it and take the victory.

“It was something that we were all echoing in the group at the end of the game,” Trae Young said. “We wanted to stop and then close the game as well. We’ve been in a couple of games recently where we had an advantage and we lost it late in the game.”

Much of Atlanta’s success in the fourth quarter on Wednesday can be attributed to Young. He scored 16 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter and helped reject Boston’s hopes of a comeback with a key basket or assist. He scored eight points after the Celtics cut the lead to six with 2:38 left.

It was the third time in his career that Young scored more than 40 points on 20 or fewer field goal attempts; I had 14 of 20 shots. The only other players in franchise history to accomplish the feat were John Drew, Zelmo Beaty, Richie Guerin, and Bob Pettit, all before the 3-point shooting became part of the game.

“We want to set the pace, and it really starts with Trae and with our defense, making stops and bouncing the ball,” McMillan said. “We want Trae to keep the pressure on that defense, pushing the ball, looking to attack. If he doesn’t have anything, get us organized and put us in a set.”

The last few weeks have not been easy for the Celtics, either. Boston has lost five of its last seven games and seen its record drop to .500. Jayson Tatum, who scored 35 points against the Hawks, acknowledged the difficulties but is not ready to give up.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Tatum said. “But we believe. We believe in each other. We believe in ourselves. Let’s figure it out.”

Boston has been particularly vulnerable in transitional defense, although the Celtics only allowed 10 fast-break points against the Hawks.

“I think it’s an area that needs to be improved if you want to have any chance of being a good team,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “Those baskets kill you, so we have to do a better job.”

The Celtics should get Kemba Walker back for a rematch. The veteran was held for cargo handling on Wednesday. He has averaged 17.8 points and six assists in 32 career games against Atlanta. Walker missed two games against Atlanta last season. Daniel Theis missed his second game with a sprained right index finger, suffered against Washington on Sunday and remains uncertain.

–Field level media

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