The Boston Celtics rode a 42-point third quarter outburst to their eighth consecutive victory, 105-95 over the Atlanta Hawks in a Super Bowl Sunday matinée at TD Garden.
With the win, the Celtics retained their title as the hottest team in the NBA. The Hawks have now lost five of seven, but were the last team to beat the Green back on January 28.
Under the glare of a national TV spotlight, the Green struggled to find their rhythm early, but locked in defensively to hold the Hawks to 40 points in the second half, simultaneously showcasing the offensive firepower they needed to keep the streak alive.
Facing a double-digit deficit at the half, Boston used a 12-0 third quarter run to tie it up. After a couple of Marcus Smart free throws, Al Horford and Jayson Tatum tossed in consecutive three-pointers to resuscitate the Green’s long-range game. Tatum and Jaylen Brown then bulled their way to the basket on consecutive possessions. The ball was popping for Boston, and Tatum finished with 16 points for the quarter as the Celtics exited the frame with a nine-point advantage.
The Hawks would occasionally threaten down the stretch, but the smoldering from Boston’s third quarter outburst was enough to push the Green to the victory.
The Celtics shot just 30 percent in the opening 12 minutes, with Tatum, Brown, Marcus Smart and Derrick White combining to go 5-for-19. Meanwhile, Atlanta star Trae Young had 13 of his 28 points in the opening 12 minutes.
While both teams shot under 40 percent in the first half, the Hawks made 9-of-22 threes and all 12 of their free throw attempts, while the Celtics shot 4-of-22 from deep and clanked three of their 10 attempts at the charity stripe.
Tatum had a game-high 38 points and 10 rebounds. He was joined by four other Celtics in double figures: Brown, White, Smart and Rob Williams. The Timelord also hauled in a team-high 14 rebounds.
In addition to Young’s 28 (with 10 assists), Bogdan Bogdanovic tossed in 26 points for Atlanta. Clint Capela corralled a game-high 17 boards.
The win vaulted the Celtics into sixth place in the Eastern Conference, just 4.5 games behind the first place Heat in the jumbled standings.
The new-look Philadelphia 76ers will roll out the red carpet on Tuesday night in the City of Brotherly Love. Tipoff against Joel Embiid, James Harden and company is at 7:30 p.m. on 105.7 WROR and throughout the Celtics Radio Network.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Talk hoops with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.