Sluggish Celtics fall to Hawks, 123-116

After a 48-minute battle that took more than two and a half hours of real time, Mike Budenholzer's team emerged victorious over the Boston Celtics by a final score of 123-116 and that victory provided much needed breathing room for the embattled squad.

For the seeming entirety of the 23-point surrender to the Cavaliers and for the majority of the defeat in Atlanta made close by a late run after falling behind by 20, the Celts played with an air of superiority that was unceremoniously punctured by both opponents.

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Elfrid Payton had 22 points, 11 assists and five rebounds to lead Orlando.

DeRozan broke Vince Carter's franchise record with his 31st 30-point game of the season, shooting 14 of 32 from the floor. But that doesn't mean they can't get it back. "We've got to come back on Sunday with the same intensity and the same mindset because they're going to come after it". "We'd been doing that, but we took a couple steps back". "It's like we forget that that's what got us where we are". Except for the Knicks game, it was bad habits.

The Celtics second unit won't look so powerful on nights Smart misfires. "And we played the way we wanted to play the whole second half". The red-hot second half that MVP candidate James Harden and the Houston Rockets (+750) have put together has led to their odds dropping from +900. The Jae Crowder trade.

"I'm pretty sure everybody is going to write about it, probably this drastic change, all of the sudden the Cavs are contenders again", Kyrie Irving said after beating the Celtics.

"These last few games we've been going through it a little bit", said Boston's Isaiah Thomas. But that's not the way it goes. We're able to communicate honestly and go out there and execute and know what to expect from each other and when you have that, you can have performances like this and still be critical of the things that you want to improve on.

The Celtics arrived at the Garden on Wednesday believing they could claim sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference.

Among those fooled may have been themselves. It's a great environment, the fans are great here, they get on top of you, they love their team. "We've got to see them again". We can't be the retaliators. "Sometimes you feel like you found something in a loss and I feel like we can build off this one".

"There's still three games left and we never know what can happen", Charlotte's Nicolas Batum said.

At this point, the Celts should cease imagining what the No. 1 seed would feel like. The second-place Celtics trail the Cleveland Cavaliers by 1 1/2 games for the top spot in the East.

The Celtics are one of the youngest teams in the National Basketball Association and Ainge has struck gold so many times in the last four seasons. It's more important that they just play hard. "That's the most frustrating, most disturbing and it sucks". We can't just flip a switch. Guarantee the day we leave its nice. "That has to be part of who we are".

The Celtics are now 50-29, lying in second spot behind reigning National Basketball Association champions Cleveland who are 51-27 and now primed to lock up first place.

"Just energy", James said when asked for an explanation for the outcome.

"Exactly", Bradley said. "And they have the experience".

Instead of setting up something going down the other end of the court, though, Love made a decision to just end this possession quickly for the Cavs.

  • Julie Sanders