Court Vision: Hawks blow 14-point lead, lose to Celtics

BY foxsports • February 11, 2015

Going inside the Atlanta Hawks' 89-88 loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night on the road, their last game prior to the All-Star break:

Al Horford had a great game against the Celtics, notching his 13th double-double of the season in 22 points and 12 rebounds. He built the foundation for his double-double in the first quarter.

With eight of the Hawks' first 13 points, Horford got rolling in the first four minutes of the game. Then his teammates chimed in.

Horford's eight points paced the Hawks in the first quarter (Atlanta shot 52.9 percent from the floor), but what they did defensively was special. Atlanta held Boston to just 13 points in the first quarter, and the Celtics shot just 18.5 percent.

The Hawks built the lead to 15 by halftime using a similar storyline.

Atlanta scored 49 points in the first half and shot 51.3 percent from the floor. When a team scores well in a half, and has a shooting percentage that's higher than its points scored, things have gone pretty well.

The big lead was built on team basketball and head coach Mike Budenholzer's motto of pace and space. The offense created plenty of open shots, and frequently all five players touched the ball prior to a bucket.

Horford led the way with 12 points, while DeMarre Carroll did a little bit of everything. Carroll scored six points, pulled down six rebounds, dished out three assists and had two steals in the first half.

The Celtics outscored the Hawks by four in the third quarter then watched Atlanta build the lead back to 14 points in the first 4:17 of the fourth quarter.

But after Mike Scott nailed a bucket with 7:43 to play to put the Hawks up 79-65, momentum shifted toward Boston.

Over the next two minutes the Celtics went on an 8-2 run to bring the score to 79-73. Atlanta pushed back to take a nine-point lead with 4:11 to play.

Then the Celtics went on another run, this one of the 14-4 variety. The last two points were the worst from the Hawks' perspective.

With the clock winding down, Evan Turner drove into the paint and landed a 7-foot floater to put the Celtics up 89-88 with less than a second to play. It was the Celtics first lead of the game.

The Hawks couldn't get a tap-in attempt on their final play, and lost by one.

Forget about the fact that Atlanta was outscored 28-16 in the final period. Instead of looking at the result, it's more important to wonder why.

Budenholzer told FOX Sports' Andre Aldridge after the game to give credit to the Celtics for the comeback, but the Hawks "lost some of our discipline."

The Hawks seemed to lose focus after the big lead. Call it a let down prior to the All-Star Break or call it a failure to play with said big lead. Budenholzer was extremely emphatic with what happens next.

"We'll be better because of tonight," said Atlanta's coach.

Back to why.

After Horford made a bucket with 4:11 to play to build the lead back to nine, he was not utilized on offense. He shot one more time in the game (a made 20-footer with 1:23 to play) and that was it. Horford finished with a game-high 22 points and shot 73.3 percent from the floor.

The Hawks didn't do enough late in the game to get the ball to their hottest shooter.

You can also point to six fourth-quarter turnovers as a culprit. It's hard to get that sloppy and maintain any sort of lead.

Free-throw shooting was rough as well. The Hawks went 15 of 23 (65.2 percent) from the charity stripe, and they missed two free throws in the final two minutes of the game.

There is very little wrong with heading into the All-Star Break with a 43-11 record. The loss will sting a bit (maybe even a good kind of sting for some players), but in the grand scheme it means little.

Look at Scott, who finished the game with nine points off the bench. With his one 3-pointer on the night, he'll enter the break shooting 71.4 percent (10 of 14) from long distance over his last five games.

Scott is also building a nice rapport with Dennis Schroder on pick-and-roll plays. To see players outside the starting five gel offensively is great for the Hawks.

Kent Bazemore also had nine points on Wednesday, and has been so vital to the Hawks over the last month. He added three points and a rebound in four fourth-quarter minutes, and led the Hawks in bench minutes with 24.

Horford's double-double's have been coming with greater frequency of late. His 13th of the season Wednesday was also his third in five games and fourth over his last seven games.

The Hawks win with team basketball. But as more pieces of the team get better and grow as the season goes, the entire unit improves.

88: The Hawks entered Wednesday sixth in the NBA with a scoring average of 103.7. The were held to 88 point by the Celtics. Atlanta has only been held to fewer than 90 points four times this season. The first was an 87-81 win over Orlando. The second was a 107-77 loss to Milwaukee. With No. 3 coming last week in a 94-88 loss to Memphis.

4: Korver had another off night offensively, scoring just four points. It was his third outing of fewer than 10 points in his last five games.

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