The Boston Celtics had plenty working against them heading into Saturday night against the Atlanta Hawks.
Despite coming off consecutive wins at home, the Celtics were riding a four-game losing streak on the road. Boston was also 2-5 in the second leg of back-to-backs. To add on, the C’s were without Gordon Hayward, who did not travel to Atlanta for personal reasons.
All of those factors made Saturday night’s 113-105 win over the Hawks a proving moment for the Celtics.
In what looked like another let-down road performance as the Hawks handled a double-digit lead early, Kyrie Irving’s 23 first-half points kept the Celtics hanging around. He finished with 32.
And Brad Stevens was more than pleased with how the C’s buckled down in the second half, holding the Hawks to 38 second-half points.
“First half, defense just wasn’t very good, and then Kyrie was special and he kept us in it,” Stevens told reporters after the game. “In the second half, we really guarded. I thought we showed some tired legs shooting the ball, but we were gritty and we found a way to win. That was a good win and those are hard to come by and I think that’s one of those this league, you gotta earn every one of them.”
Boston is 11-13 on the road, and sits fifth in the Eastern Conference at 28-18, 1 1/2 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics had lost their last two playing the backend of a back-to-back.
“They really tested us, we have to understand that they put a bunch of points up in the first half and you just can’t panic,” Irving said told reporters after the game via NBC Sports Boston. “You just have to keep doing the right things and they’ll cool off, as they did. And we just weathered the storm.”
Here are some other notes from Saturday’s Celtics-Hawks game:
— Terry Rozier went just 4-for-12 from the floor with nine points, but drew praise from Stevens and teammates after the game for his effort, leading the team with 11 rebounds off the bench. He added three steals.
He and Jaylen Brown, who scored nine points in the fourth en route to a 14-point effort, were critical in Boston’s fourth-quarter surge after Marcus Smart was ejected in the third quarter.
“I thought he was great,” Stevens said of Rozier. “He struggled to shoot the ball in the first three quarters. But I thought his energy and Jaylen’s energy, specifically in the late third early fourth, were pivotal for our team.”
“Terry is playing at a really high level,” Stevens added. “He can go 4-for-12 and impact us in a real positive way … I’m excited about the way he has played the last two.”
Al Horford also gave Rozier praise.
— Irving is averaging 32.3 points over the Celtics’ three-game winning streak.
— Vince Carter, 41, went 2-for-2 from the floor with four points for the Hawks. He has scored 1132 career points against Boston, second only to the New York Knicks over Carter’s 21 seasons.
— The Celtics are 3-0 against Atlanta this season, and will play the Hawks one more time this season on March 16 at TD Garden.
Thumbnail photo via Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports Images