Celtics top Hawks for 15th straight vic­tory

The Standard Journal - - NATIONAL SPORTS - By Ge­orge Henry

AT­LANTA — Kyrie Irv­ing ap­pre­ci­ates what he calls “the in­no­cence of the game” dur­ing Bos­ton’s 15- game win­ning streak.

In his first sea­son with the Celtics af­ter de­mand­ing a trade from Cleve­land, Irv­ing is en­joy­ing the tor­rid start be­cause ev­ery­thing feels so new.

“Most of us have never been on a win­ning streak like this,” he said. “I don’t know if we even know how to pay at­ten­tion to all the hoopla that goes on in terms of the ex­cite­ment of it. I just think that ev­ery sin­gle game we take it as a chal­lenge.”

Irv­ing scored 30 points, Jaylen Brown added a ca­reer- high 27 and the Celtics beat the At­lanta Hawks 110-99 on Satur­day night.

At 15-2, Bos­ton leads the NBA and has matched the best start in fran­chise his­tory through 17 games. The win­ning streak is the club’s fifth-long­est, four be­hind the 2008-09 team that set the fran­chise mark.

Den­nis Schroder had 23 points, and Kent Baze­more added 19 for At­lanta. The Hawks are an Eastern Con­fer­ence­worst 3-13, but they still had plenty of adren­a­line fol­low­ing a 46-point vic­tory over Sacra­mento — the big­gest in fran­chise his­tory — two nights ago.

“I still feel like we can make some big things hap­pen this sea­son,” Schroder said. “We just have to stay to­gether as a team.”

The Celtics erased a 16- point deficit t o take their first lead on Brown’s 3- pointer mid­way through the third. It marked Bos­ton’s fourth win when trail­ing by at least 16 dur­ing the streak.

It’s been a tough week for Brown, a 21-year-old whose best friend Trevin Steede passed away this week in metro At­lanta. Brown and Streede went to Wheeler High School to­gether in nearby Ma­ri­etta. He spoke pub­licly about Steede a cou­ple of days ago and skipped talk­ing to re­porters af­ter beat­ing the Hawks.

“He’s not alone,” Irv­ing said. “That’s the spirit in the truest form. (Brown) may not say much but he knows we’re all here for him.”

Irv­ing, play­ing with a pro­tec­tive mask to pro­tect a mi­nor fa­cial frac­ture, ended the game with a right-handed fin­ger-roll layup, de­light­ing a few thou­sand Bos­ton fans who were chant­ing “MVP! MVP!” in the fourth quar­ter.

In 31 min­utes, Irv­ing made 10 of 12 shots, in­clud­ing five 3-poin­t­ers, and hit all five of his free throws.

Irv­ing, frus­trated that the mask was af­fect­ing his pe­riph­eral vi­sion two nights ago, took it off to help Bos­ton beat de­fend­ing NBA cham­pion Golden State by four points. He scored 16 points, but was just 4 for 16 from the field.

“I could see just a lit­tle bit more of the crowd tonight,” Irv­ing said. “The eye holes were a lit­tle bit big­ger. The bas­ket looked a lit­tle bit bet­ter. I was told to kind of keep it on, so it was a bet­ter fit.”

The Celtics lead NBA in scor­ing de­fense, but they gave up 35 points in the first quar­ter and trailed by 15 en­ter­ing the se­cond.

“I think the big­gest thing is that we can’t keep dig­ging these holes,” Bos­ton coach Brad Stevens said. “We need to put an em­pha­sis on play­ing with pace and get­ting the ball to the other side of the floor.”

At­lanta used a 16- 0 run in the first to take a 15-point lead. But fu­eled by Mar­cus Smart and other re­serves, Bos­ton pulled within four twice in the se­cond and cut the lead to six in the clos­ing min­utes on Brown’s 3.

Mar­cus Mor­ris and Jayson Ta­tum each had 14 points for Bos­ton. John Collins scored 18 and Tau­rean Prince added 14 for At­lanta

Hawks 126, Kings 80

AT­LANTA — The At­lanta Hawks didn’t need to win by the most lop­sided mar­gin in fran­chise his- tory to boost their spir­its.

They just needed any win. De­wayne Ded­mon scored a ca­reer-high 20 points and had 14 re­bounds, and the Hawks rode a dom­i­nant first half to a 126-80 win over the Sacra­mento Kings on Wed­nes­day night.

At­lanta’s 46-point mar­gin of vic­tory was two points bet­ter than its pre­vi­ous best. At­lanta took a 141-97 win over Detroit on Feb. 7, 1994, and the St. Louis Hawks beat Bal­ti­more 144-100 on Feb. 12, 1965.

For the Hawks ( 3- 12), the mar­gin was just a bonus.

“Right now we have the worst record in the NBA, so any win is a good win and we’ll take it,” said Tau­rean Prince, who had 14 points.

Ac­tu­ally, Dal­las (2-13) owned the league’s worst record even be­fore the Hawks’ win, but that mat­tered lit­tle to Prince.

The Hawks, who snapped a four-game los­ing streak and won for the first time at home, felt like they were look­ing up at the rest of the league.

Bos­ton Celtics’ Kyrie Irv­ing (left) drib­bles against At­lanta Hawks’ Den­nis Schroder in the se­cond quar­ter of an NBA bas­ket­ball game in At­lanta. Bos­ton won 110-99. David Gold­man / AP

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