The Hawks (7-28) jumped out to an 18-point lead but couldn’t maintain it in a 109-106 loss to the Celtics (24-8) Friday, with John Collins exiting the game in the third quarter with a back contusion.
Below are some takeaways from the loss:
1. The ending of this game was not without controversy. Trailing by two points, the Hawks had a chance to likely win it, but a 3-pointer by Trae Young (in his first game back after missing two games with a right ankle sprain), was blocked by Daniel Theis with 2.7 seconds left on the clock. After Marcus Smart grabbed the rebound, he and Young (who was down on the court) got tangled up, with Smart stepping over Young and tripping, and Young was called for a foul. Alex Len came over to seemingly defend Young, and both Len and Smart received technical fouls. Smart made one of two free throws to seal the win. “You ask for the opportunity with the ball, with the shot, on the road to win the game,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said of the final play. “And we had that. And Daniel made a great defensive effort on Trae. I thought Kevin (Huerter) did a heads-up play, he sets the screen, he gets the five-man onto our point guard. Our closer. But hell of an effort by Daniel, by Theis, and credit them.” Young led the Hawks with 28 points and 10 assists. After the game, Smart said this: “Me and Trae Young got into something, and (Len) came out of nowhere and just grabbed me, and I just told him, ‘Don't grab. Watch out. This has got nothing to do with you. Just don't grab me.’ That was it. I pushed him off of me, and walked away.”
2. Although the Hawks got some bodies back, with the return of Young and also Jabari Parker, who missed three games with a right shoulder impingement and was listed as “probable” on Friday’s injury report with a throat infection (Parker had four points and three assists in just under 15 minutes), they also lost another. Midway through the third quarter, after colliding with Jayson Tatum and coming down hard on his lower back, Collins went back to the locker room. He was diagnosed with a back contusion and did not return to the game, though he said postgame he didn’t think there was any structural damage. Collins also added he did not get any X-rays taken. As far as Collins’ availability for Saturday’s game vs. the Pacers in Atlanta, Collins said that he will see how he feels tomorrow and will “make a decision from there.” Before his injury, Collins tallied 16 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes.
3. Playing without Kemba Walker (illness), the Celtics got off to a rough start (shooting 30.8% from the field and going 1-for-7 from 3-point range in the first quarter), with the Hawks leading 32-19 at the end of the first. They woke up quickly in the second, scoring the first seven points of the second quarter to cut it to 32-24, but the Hawks still maintained a 55-53 lead at the half (having shot 10-for-25 from 3-point range, or 40%). Although the Hawks can’t seem to stay fully healthy, with Collins exiting at the 8:54 mark in the third quarter, the first half was a sign of what they can do when they have their full arsenal centered around Young, Collins and Huerter. “I feel like this year and last year we’re sort of proving to ourselves and the rest of the league that we’re able to compete when we have a full, healthy roster, and I feel like other teams are starting to notice that,” Collins said. “But like I said, the golden question is when can everyone get on the court and stay on the court together so we can see our full potential.”
4. After starting out the fourth quarter on a 10-4 run, the Celtics worked their way to a 92-84 advantage, their biggest lead of the game, with the Hawks adding three turnovers during that run. But the Hawks responded well, scoring eight points in a little over a minute to trail by two, thanks to a 3-pointer by Huerter (who finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists) and five straight points by De’Andre Hunter (who had 11 points). Smart hit a 3 with 42.3 seconds left and Len responded with a layup, with a turnover by Smart giving the Hawks the ball back for their final play. “It was definitely encouraging to get the game close, especially whenever they made runs,” Young said. “This is probably one of the toughest places to play in the league, so whenever you can stop the momentum and make runs on your own, that’s a good sign.”
5. Two-way player Brandon Goodwin provided a few valuable minutes at backup point guard, a role the Hawks have struggled to fill this season, adding eight points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals in just under 13 minutes.
By the numbers
16 (the amount of 3’s the Hawks made, compared to the Celtics’ six, which helped them keep the game close)
"I don't know. I haven't watched the video. Everybody in the locker room was telling me different things. I ain't trying to really get into that. People can watch and see and judge what happened." (Trae Young on getting tangled up with Marcus Smart at the end of the game)
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