PAUL Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Atlanta Hawks out of its two-game skid with a morale-boosting win, 123-116, over the suddenly skidding Boston Celtics at the Philips Arena on Thursday (Friday, Manila time).
Millsap made an immediate impact in sparking a 12-0 run near the end of the first quarter to build a 14-point lead. Boston managed to tie the game in the second before Atlanta closed the first half strong with a 27-12 blitz to end up with 71 points before the break against the Celtics’ 55.
Atlanta pushed the lead to 20 in the third quarter before Boston’s bench powered a 12-3 run to end the period trailing only by 10, 99-89. The Celtics turned to its tenacious defense to get within six with less than three minutes remaining. After a Dennis Schroder triple, Isaiah Thomas countered with a trey of his own and forced a turnover on Hardaway Jr as the Celtics trailed only by five, 116-111, with 55 ticks left.
But Thomas missed on another triple and Hardaway Jr. made up for his blunder with a three-point play. Millsap then proved steady at the stripe to slam the door shut on the Celtics comeback.
Millsap had his best outing after an 8-game absence with 26 points and 12 rebounds off the bench for Atlanta, now 40-38 to hold on to the fifth spot in the East with a slim lead over Milwaukee. Hardaway Jr added 23 markers, while Taurean Prince scored 20.
Thomas led all scorers with 35 points, but was not enough to prevent the Celtics (50-29) from falling to their second straight loss and 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the East top seed. Jae Crowder chipped in 24 markers, while Marcus Smart scored 18 off the bench.