Irving, Celtics hold off Hawks in closing minutes
FILE - Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the National Anthem before the game against the San Antonio Spurs on October 30, 2017 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
By George Henry, Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 35 points, Jayson Tatum added 21 and the Boston Celtics held off the Atlanta Hawks 110-107 Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) for their ninth straight victory.
Irving’s triple from the right wing put the Celtics up 104-103 — the game’s 25th lead change — with 1:37 remaining, and Boston led the rest of the way.
Dennis Schroder had 23 points for the rebuilding Hawks, who dropped to 2-9 a night after a surprising two-point win at Cleveland.
Boston improved to 9-2, best in the NBA, and has its longest winning streak in seven years.
Al Horford had 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in his best game against the Hawks. Horford spent his first nine seasons in Atlanta before leaving as a free agent ahead of last season and had totals of 20 points and 17 rebounds in three games against the Hawks.
Irving had his first 30-point game as a Celtic on a night packed with highlights. He dribbled between his legs and behind his back before hitting a floater off the glass from the left baseline to put Boston up 46-44. He had two impressive assists late in the third with long, one-handed passes that led to 3s by Marcus Smart and Tatum, the latter giving Boston a 72-71 lead.
And Irving fed Horford for a dunk that was part of a 13-0 run that put the Celtics up by six.
Boston coach Brad Stevens wasn’t pleased with the ball movement or defense early in the third, storming the floor to call timeout after Atlanta’s Luke Babbit hit a triple to put the Hawks up 57-54. Irving took charge, either scoring or assisting on 16 straight points. The Celtics gradually pulled away, taking a 10-point lead early in the fourth on Semi Ojeleye’s triple.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer joked before the game that he regretted having his assistants work with the 6'10" Horford a couple of years ago to develop a strong presence beyond the perimeter. Horford entered the game shooting nearly 52 percent on 33 attempts from the arc.
“I think there was just a real push from us and a credit to him that he could do it,” Budenholzer said. “It’s part of the way the game is, and his passing just opens up the court even more for him to drive and attack. He’s such a good player, such a smart player.”
Celtics: Irving has scored more points — 245 — than any player in his first 11 games with Boston. ... With Marcus Morris getting the night off to rest his sore left knee, Aron Baynes started at center and finished with just two points and three rebounds in 15 minutes.
Hawks: Malcolm Delaney returned after missing two games with a sprained right ankle and had 13 points. Marco Belinelli scored 19 despite a sore left Achilles.
Celtics: Host the Lakers on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time).
Hawks: Off until they visit Detroit on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time).