Atlanta Hawks beat NBA-leading Boston Celtics for the second time in four days after last-second OT game-winner

by 24USATVMarch 30, 2024, 10:01 a.m. 20
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It appears that the Atlanta Hawks have the Boston Celtics’ number.

Atlanta guard Dejounte Murray knocked down a game-winning jumpshot in the final second of overtime to give the Hawks a 123-122 victory over the Celtics on Thursday – their second win against the team with the best record in the NBA this week.

On Monday night, Atlanta completed the biggest comeback in Hawks history when it came back from 30 points down to stun Boston, which has already locked up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

After a closely contested battle that required OT to separate the two sides, the Celtics thought they had the game won when All-Star wing Jaylen Brown drilled a tough contested midrange shot to put Boston up by one with just over six seconds to go.

Murray then took matters into his own hands, isolating against lauded defender Jrue Holiday and rising up to shoot the game-winning field goal, which found the bottom of the bucket with 0.1 seconds left on the clock.

“We competed against the best team in the NBA,” Murray said postgame. “My guys showed up, we all showed up. No excuses on a back-to-back … we were ready to come and play and we got a great win.”

Murray caught fire in OT, scoring all of the Hawks’ 11 points in the additional period to cap off a landmark night where he dropped a career-high 44 points to go with seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

Despite the scoring outburst, it was not the most efficient shooting night for the 27-year-old, making 18 of his whopping 44 field goal attempts – including 19 shots from deep. Murray was not too pleased with his performance after the game but hoped that his persistence on the offensive end made an NBA legend proud.

“I still feel like I played awful,” he said. “I don’t wanna take that many shots, but I know Kobe (Bryant) would be proud of me.”

Bogdan Bogdanović chipped in with 24 points while Monday’s hero De’Andre Hunter added 21 points and 13 rebounds. A look at Atlanta’s injury list makes this win all the more impressive – superstar point guard Trae Young has not played since late February, while Jalen Johnson, Onyeka Okongwu and Saddiq Bey all remain absent from the lineup.

Despite the injury issues, the Hawks are winners of four straight games and have hit a hot streak at just the right time as the regular season winds down and postseason anticipation builds.

An interesting aspect of the team’s two victories over Boston is that this could be a preview of a first-round matchup in the playoffs.

The Hawks are currently 34-39 and occupy the 10th seed in the East which would give them a spot in the Play-In tournament. Barring a late regular-season surge, they will have to likely come through two win-or-go-home games to earn a true postseason berth, but if they are successful, they will take on the NBA-leading Celtics in round one.

While the Celtics are in no danger of losing ground at the top of the East after locking up the No. 1 spot, it was another disappointing loss for Boston, squandering its chance at redemption after Monday’s embarrassing collapse.

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla put his team’s loss down to the Hawks’ ability to grab offensive rebounds.

“That’s the game right there,” he said postgame. “They did a great job of crashing… there’s a few [rebounding situations] that we can get better at, but that to me is the game right there: offensive rebounds and second-chance points. I thought we played a hell of a game outside of that component.”

MVP candidate Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston, posting 31 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. All five Celtics starters scored in double figures, but it wasn’t enough on the night.

The Celtics drop to 57-16 on the season and will next visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday. The Hawks are back in action the same night, hosting the Milwaukee Bucks.

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