As well as the Boston Celtics have played lately, guard Marcus Smart believes that they can play even better. Jayson Tatum on Friday had seven three-pointers and scored 32 points to help the Celtics sneak out of the TD Garden with a 112-107 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
However, with eight of the Celtics’ next nine games against teams currently in playoff contention, Smart knows that there will not be any room for lapses over the next few weeks.
“That’s something as a team we’re still learning and we’re still getting better at,” Smart said. “We’ve got to play to the final buzzer. That’s what’s gonna make us a great team. We still have a lot to learn, but I like the way we did tonight.”
It was Tatum’s eighth consecutive game with at least 20 points. Enes Kanter added 16 points and 15 rebounds, while Romeo Langford chipped in 16 points off the bench, as Boston posted their sixth consecutive win.
Atlanta led at halftime, despite having only nine players available and playing without Trae Young, DeAndrew Bembry, Cam Reddish and Bruno Fernando.
However, the Hawks struggled to make shots in the second half.
They got within 110-107 with 41.3 seconds to play on a dunk by John Collins.
The Hawks got the ball back with 18.3 seconds left, but Kevin Huerter and Brandon Goodwin both came up empty from the three-point line.
However, Langford corraled the rebound, was fouled and hit both of his ensuing free throws.
“I was a lot more comfortable,” said Langford, who at times found himself guarding Vince Carter just a game removed from making his first career start. “It took me a little bit to get the rhythm of the game, but once I got running up and down the court a little bit, I felt like I belonged out there.”
Collins led Atlanta with 30 points and 10 rebounds, while Huerter finished with 25 points.
The Hawks kept the game close, despite also not having trade deadline acquisitions Clint Capela, Dewayne Dedmon and Skal Labissiere, who had not yet joined the team as they awaited their deals to be officially completed.
“We’ve just got to play with effort, no matter if we’re short-handed or not,” Huerter said.
The Celtics were also missing starters with Jaylen Brown (right-ankle sprain), Gordon Hayward (left-foot soreness) and Daniel Theis (right-ankle sprain) all sitting out.
Boston took advantage of the holes in Atlanta’s lineup, jumping out to a 21-7 lead, which included 17 combined points by Tatum and Walker.
However, Boston’s second unit of Semi Ojeleye, Grant Williams, Vincent Poirier, Brad Wannamaker and Tremont Waters shot just one of eight from the field over the final 6:46 of the opening quarter.
Atlanta finished the period trailing 28-26, getting 11 points from Collins and 10 from Huerter.
The Hawks outscored the Celtics 29-26 in the second quarter and took a 55-54 lead into halftime.
The Celtics responded, outscoring Atlanta 22-11 over the final 7:29 of the third quarter to take an 87-73 lead into the fourth.
Also on Friday, it was:
‧ Wizards 119, Mavericks 118
‧ Jazz 117, Trail Blazers 114
‧ Raptors 115, Pacers 106
‧ 76ers 119, Grizzlies 107
‧ Thunder 108, Pistons 101
‧ Kings 105, Heat 97
‧ Suns 127, Rockets 91
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