The Boston Celtics stunned the basketball world and made a big statement by knocking off the defending champion Golden State Warriors and running their winning streak to 14 straight on Thursday. The trick now will be to avoid a letdown when the Celtics begin a three-game road trip by visiting the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
The Warriors entered Thursday’s meeting averaging 119.6 points but shot 40.2 percent from the floor and ended up dropping a 92-88 decision to Boston, which tried to keep the win in perspective. “It’s just a regular season game,” swingman Jaylen Brown told reporters. “We’ve still got 60-plus games left to play. We’ve got to take it one game at a time and keep winning. We’ve got a 14-game win streak going down to Atlanta, and we’ve got Miami and Dallas. Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us. Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that.” The Celtics own the NBA’s best defense, allowing an average of 94.1 points, and will be going up against a Hawks squad that is coming off its best performance of the season - a 126-80 thrashing of the Sacramento Kings that marked the largest margin of victory in franchise history. The win was the first of the season at home for Atlanta, which is just 3-12.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCS Boston, FS Southeast (Atlanta)
ABOUT THE CELTICS (14-2): Boston attempted 19 more free throws than the Warriors on Thursday, and point guard Kyrie Irving relentlessly attacked the basket in the final minute and put his team ahead at the line. “We talk all the time about we want to get free throws, layups or three’s and play inside out and we made an emphasis on that at the start of training camp,“ Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters. ”You don’t always get to the line quite as much, but I thought we really drove it hard. They are so hard to score on, you have to convert when you do get to the line.” Irving was just 4-of-16 from the floor but finished with 16 points after discarding the mask he had been wearing to protect a facial fracture during the contest.
ABOUT THE HAWKS (3-12): Atlanta is a rebuilding club but proved it wasn’t yet tanking when it went out and demolished the Kings on Wednesday. Center Dewayne Dedmon is emerging as a building block and delivered 20 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in 24 minutes on Wednesday for his second double-double in the last five games and third this season. Dedmon could be sharing the frontcourt for a long time with rookie John Collins, who went 7-of-9 from the field on Wednesday to score in double figures for the fourth time in the last six contests.
1. Celtics C Al Horford is 23-of-30 from the floor over the last three games.
2. Hawks PF Ersan Ilyasova (knee) returned from an eight-game absence on Wednesday and grabbed eight rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench.
3. Boston earned a 110-107 win at Atlanta on Nov. 6 behind 35 points from Irving.
PREDICTION: Celtics 106, Hawks 90