Celtics

BSJ Game Report: Celtics 113, Hawks 105 — Defensive effort carries comeback win

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Everything you need to know about the Celtics beating the Hawks 113-105 with BSJ insight and analysis:

Box Score 

HEADLINES

Celtics rally after Smart ejection: After trailing by as many as 16 points in the first half, the Celtics slowly chipped away at a nine-point halftime deficit in the third quarter before all hell broke loose midway through the frame. DeAndre Bembry was whistled for a technical after jawing with Marcus Smart while lining up for a jump ball, and then Smart proceeded to run at Bembry after the two players had been separated. The move got Smart tossed (he already had one technical) and seemed to energize the Celtics from a defensive standpoint over the rest of the night. Kyrie Irving (32 points) did the offensive heavy lifting, but the Hawks offense was locked down by Boston over the final 16 minutes, scoring just 16 points in the fourth quarter alone as the C’s earned their third straight win.

A much-needed road victory: The Celtics had lost six of their last seven road contests entering this game, including four consecutive defeats. With their recent back-to-back struggles as well (3-5 on the back end), the urgency was clearly needed to have a crucial bounce back after an ugly recent stretch. While Boston came out flat in the first half, especially on the defensive end, they did not throw in the towel. With Gordon Hayward (personal) and Marcus Smart (ejected) missing down the stretch, the C’s got big contributions from their bench personnel to will their way back into the lead and came out with a solid win against a Hawks team that had been playing better of late (4-6 in their last ten games). It wasn’t a quality win, but any victory on the road is important for this group right now.

Smart suspension could be coming: It was the second scuffle of the season for Smart and he was lucky Jayson Tatum was in place to prevent him from throwing punches at Bembry after he charged him. Even without that, the NBA league office is going to take a long look at this one. Given the type of aggression he showed, a one-game suspension could be in play, while a hefty fine awaits either way.

TURNING POINT

The Celtics' second unit plus Terry Rozier opened the fourth quarter with a 14-2 run that gave Boston its first lead of the game since the opening minutes of the tilt. The outburst was crucial given how much this team has struggled offensively with Irving on the bench all year. They found a way to manufacture points without him and put the starters in a good position to shut the door on the win in crunch time.

TWO UP

Irving: The future All-Star posted 27 or more points in his third straight game and has been on fire since returning from a quad injury on Wednesday night. Over the past three games, he’s averaging 32.3 points and 11.0 assists per game while shooting 61 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point range.

Terry Rozier: It was a tough shooting night for the reserve guard, but he did almost everything else for this team from an energy standpoint. He grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds to go with his nine points, snagged three steals and added four assists in his 29 minutes. With Smart out, someone needed to pick up the defensive intensity and Rozier did a great job on that front.  

TWO DOWN

Marcus Morris: The veteran finds himself in the down column for the second straight night. He went 3-of-10 from the field and looked sluggish on the defensive end for most of the night as well. He has shot below 33 percent or worse from the field over his past four games and is just 4-of-17 from downtown during that run. He was due for a bad run given his early consistency this year and it has arrived.  

First half defense: Boston showed little resistance early on in the second half of a back-to-back, as it allowed 67 first-half points, thanks to 53 percent shooting from the uptempo Hawks. The C’s allowed rookie Kevin Huerter (18 points) to get red-hot and as Atlanta picked the visitors apart with their ball movement before Boston stepped up the defensive intensity in the second half.    

TOP PLAY

TWO TAKES B-ROBB WILL PROBABLY REGRET LATER

The Celtics finally won a game with some defense on the road: In a performance that resembled last year’s team in the second half, this group dealt with plenty of adversity early with a big deficit and a Smart ejection but did not back down. They played smart and disciplined in the second half, keeping better tabs on the Hawks top shooters while letting the poor ones fire away at will from downtown. The offense was not pretty at times but some timely buckets, fouls drawn and offensive putbacks helped the C’s slowly but surely chip away before putting the game away late with some clutch buckets from Irving and Horford. Legs looked like they were an issue on the team’s third game in four nights, but this group showed some much-needed character as they try to climb back up the East standings.

Rozier may have discovered his defensive identity again: This part of his game had disappeared at times during the first half of the season as he focused primarily on his offense during his short stints. Over the past three games, he’s looked like a different player defensively, picking up his man in full court, crashing the defensive glass hard and playing smart in passing lanes. We had seen this kind of fight from him before but it’s evident that Brad Stevens (or someone else) let him know that his minutes were going to disappear unless he started playing with some juice on defense. His performance has been big for a couple games now as he is finally helping this team win games, instead of the Celtics winning in spite of him.