Hawks soar past Celtics, 97-92

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Hawks soar past Celtics, 97-92

ATLANTA Avery Bradley will be the first to admit that part of his success as a starter for the Boston Celtics has been the talented threesome of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, that he gets to play with every night in the starting lineup.

But for one night, Bradley was on his own or so we thought.

He may not have been playing with the Celtics usual cast of starters, but the C's proved once again that they're deep enough to compete with the top teams in the East - regardless of who they have available.

Despite being without most of their starters and their top two scorers off the bench, Boston put quite a scare into the Atlanta Hawks before ultimately losing, 97-92.

Trailing 92-88 with less than a minute to play, a turnover by Marquis Daniels ultimately led to a put-back basket by Josh Smith that all but ended any hopes of a Celtics comeback.

Bradley finished with a career-high 28 points, his third game of 20 or more points in Boston's last four.

Atlanta was led by their six-time all-star Joe Johnson, who came up with a slew of big shots for the Hawks who moved one step closer to clinching home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with the Celtics most likely being their first-round opponent.

Johnson led all scorers with 30 points.

Despite the lack of bodies, it certainly didn't take away from the Celtics' fight as they found themselves within one possession early in the fourth quarter.

Boston had multiple chances to take the lead, too.

First there was Daniels missing a wide open 3-pointer when the C's were down 74-73.

A lob pass to Ryan Hollins was ruled basket interference with the Celtics trailing 77-76 at the time.

Boston got three more shots at taking the lead within a two-minute period of time, coming up short in each instance.

The Hawks eventually made them pay as Willie Green drilled a 3-pointer to put Atlanta ahead, 82-78, with 5:44 to play.

It was that kind of night for the Celtics, who gave Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett the night off.

In addition, Boston was also without Allen, Rondo and Mickael Pietrus who were all back in Boston nursing injuries.

With so much offensive firepower out of the lineup, someone had to pick up the slack in comes Bradley.

Despite averaging 7.1 points per game this season, Bradley has been a nice offensive flow of late, Big Four or no Big Four.

In the Celtics' last four games prior to Friday night, Bradley averaged 20 points per game while shooting 62.7 percent from the field.

At the half on Friday, Bradley had 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting, well on his way to surpassing his career-high which is 23 points against both Orlando on Wednesday and earlier on March 25 against Washington.

Despite being without a slew of core players, the Celtics clawed their way to within a point, 72-71, late in the third quarter following a 3-pointer by E'Twaun Moore.

A jumper by Josh Smith gave the Hawks a 74-71 lead going into the fourth quarter, a position the C's were more than happy to be in.

Crowder and Booker exchange Instagram barbs following 70-point game

Crowder and Booker exchange Instagram barbs following 70-point game

Jae Crowder is not known for being shy on social media.

He was at it again on Friday night, commenting on an Instagram post of the Phoenix Suns celebrating Devin Booker's 70-point game at the TD Garden.

“NEVER SEEN SO MANY GUYS HAPPY AFTER AN ‘L’’” Crowder said in the Instagram comment.

Booker responded, telling the Celtics veteran, “you can’t guard me.”

Booker became just the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 or more points in a game,  the most scored ever at the TD Garden.

Stars, studs and duds: Booker 'in one of those zones' in 70-point game

Stars, studs and duds: Booker 'in one of those zones' in 70-point game

BOSTON – Al Horford knew Devin Booker was having a big game, but it wasn’t until the third quarter was over and he looked up saw Booker already had 42 points.

“When I looked up and saw (his points total) … it’s just impressive.”

Booker would finish with a franchise-record 70 points against the Celtics, a ridiculously unheard of tally that still wasn’t enough as Boston came away with a 130-120 win.

The 6-foot-6 guard became just the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 or more points in a game.

While Celtics players were quick to praise Booker for his historic performance, there were a few Celtics who were clearly bothered by Suns coach Earl Watson having his team commit fouls late in the game in order to get the ball back so Booker could have more shots at the franchise record.

“It was weird what they were doing,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “I’ve never seen anything like that. It is what it is. I don’t think anybody has ever seen that; continuing to call time-outs, continuing to foul when we are up 15, but I mean it was obvious what they were trying to do. They were trying to get him the most points possible. Hat off to him (Booker). He played a hell of a game.”

That said, it wasn’t like the Celtics were willing to give him all those points.

“No matter who we tried on him, what we tried on him, he was in one of those zones in a rhythm,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He was in that rhythm early in the game, and we didn’t do a very good job of breaking that rhythm.”

Putting Booker’s performance in words let alone perspective, was not easy – not even for Booker.

“It’s a zone that’s kind of hard to explain,” he said. “I’ve been in those zones before but never to this extent. It’s hard to explain … when you’re in the gym alone. You’re taking shots and making them consecutively. That’s what it starts feeling like for me. Felt comfortable, at my home gym draining.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.

 

STARS

Devin Booker

It was a historic night for the second-year guard, setting a Suns franchise record with 70 points on 21-for-40 shooting. The 70 points were also the most scored at the TD Garden, with Booker becoming only the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 or more points in a game.

Isaiah Thomas

Very efficient game for Thomas who is steadily getting his groove back after missing a couple games with a knee injury. He led the Celtics with 34 points on 10-for-20 shooting along with dishing out seven assists.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

The Celtics got another strong game from Horford who had 15 points and 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double this season. He also dished out six assists.

Gerald Green

The Celtics hit a bit of a scoring slump in the first half, but there was Green to the rescue. He finished with 15 points off the bench, all of which came in the first half.

Alex Len

One of the players besides Booker to make somewhat of an impact for Phoenix, Len finished with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting with six rebounds and two blocked shots.

Jae Crowder

He had 13 points and 10 rebounds, giving him his eighth double-double this season, while shooting 4-for-8 from the field.

 

DUDS

Celtics defense

Missing Avery Bradley was obviously a factor in Devin Booker’s big night for Phoenix. Boston reverted back to play way too casual defensively and Booker made them pay all night long. The Celtics have to correct this before it costs to something more than pride; but potentially being what winds up getting them eliminated from the playoffs.