Irving, Brown help Celtics beat Hawks for 15th straight win
ATLANTA — Boston forward Jaylen Brown was able to put aside his personal heartbreak for another night and helped the Celtics extend their winning streak to 15 games.
It has been a rough week for the Atlanta-area native. He learned Wednesday night that his childhood best friend had died and responded with 22 points in a win over Golden State.
Brown flew home on Friday to be with his family and came out Saturday to score a career-high 27 points and lead the Celtics to a 110-99 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
“It’s pretty remarkable when I think about it,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “He has a great game Thursday, gets up and takes a 6 a.m. flight to Atlanta on Friday, came in and played great again tonight. It takes a special ability to compartmentalize and focus on the task at hand.”
Brown, who played at Wheeler High School in suburban Atlanta, was 10 for 13 from the floor, including four 3-pointers, and had four rebounds. His previous best was 25 points against Cleveland on Oct. 17.
“He’s a really bright guy and he also really cares about people,” Stevens said. “You never know how people are going to go through that, everybody goes through it differently. This is his chance to do what he loves to do and provide a little bit of distraction.”
Teammate Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 30 points. He went 10 of 12 from the field, making five 3-pointers, and added five assists and four rebounds.
The 15-game winning streak is the fifth longest in franchise history. The club record is 19 straight in 2008.
Brown converted a three-point play with 5:56 remaining to give Boston (15-2) a four-point lead and Irving made two free throws the next trip down the floor to make it 92-86.
Atlanta never got closer than four points the rest of the night as Irving scored Boston’s last seven points.
Rookie Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris added 14 points apiece as the Celtics shot 47.6 percent from the field and made 47.1 (16 of 34) of their 3-pointers.
Atlanta (3-13) was led by point guard Dennis Schroder with 23 points and nine assists. Kent Bazemore added 19 points and rookie center John Collins came off the bench to contribute 18 points and seven rebounds.
“Offensively, certainly we didn’t have a lot of great possessions, but had several possessions where we’d finish or make a shot in the paint,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Those are things you have to do from the start to the end.”
The Hawks picked up where they left off from Wednesday’s 46-point win over Sacramento, when they shot 63.3 percent. Atlanta shot 65 percent in the first quarter, led by as many as 16 points and had a 35-20 lead after one quarter. It was the second-most points allowed in a quarter by the Celtics this season.
Boston outscored Atlanta 12-2 to open the second quarter and trailed 37-32 after Marcus Smart made a 3-pointer with 9:17 left. The Celtics got as close as four points (41-37). Atlanta led 50-44 at the half.
The Celtics caught up when Brown drained a 3-pointer to tie the score at 65. The surge was led by Tatum, who was held scoreless in the first half and it gave Boston an 80-77 lead at the end of three quarters.
Tatum scored 14 points in the third quarter, including a coast-to-coast slam.
“I thought our transition defense in the third quarter was poor,” Budenholzer said. “Jayson Tatum going the length of the floor and dunking on us was just unacceptable.”
Boston outscored Atlanta 66-49 in the second half and shot 51 percent from the field.
“Once we got that second group going, then our first group became contagious,” Stevens said.
Stevens credited Smart for playing good defense on Marco Belinelli, who scored only four points. Belinelli had 19 when the teams played on Nov. 6.
NOTE: Atlanta F Luke Babbitt was in the starting lineup. He left the game early on Wednesday with tightness in his back. Atlanta F DeAndre Bembry returned after missing 14 games with a fractured right wrist suffered in the season opener against Dallas. ... Atlanta G Isaiah Taylor suffered a retinal tear to his right eye in practice on Friday and will miss 1-2 weeks. Taylor scored 12 points against Sacramento on Wednesday. ... Boston G Kyrie Irving wore his protective face mask for the third straight game. ... Atlanta assigned F/G Nicolas Brussino and C Miles Plumlee to Erie of the G League. Brussino has appeared in four games for Atlanta. Plumlee, acquired from Charlotte in the Dwight Howard trade, has missed all 14 games with a strained right quad.