Hawks come back from a 30-point deficit to take down the Celtics

ATLANTA — De'Andre Hunter could have caught the ball and forced the Celtics into a foul.

Instead, he let it fly.

Given what the Atlanta Hawks did, after recovering from a 30-point deficit against NBA leaders Boston, it was only appropriate that the shot went into the net.

Hunter scored 24 points, including a 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds left, and the tenacious Hawks pulled off one of the most improbable wins in franchise history with a stunning 120-118 win over the Celtics on Monday night.

The Celtics won 20 of 22 games, riding a nine-game winning streak at State Farm Arena — a run that was certainly not in jeopardy when Al Horford's 3-pointer put Boston up 68-38 with just under 4 1/2 minutes left. first half. half.

But the Hawks — one of the most disappointing teams in the league — are clinging to last place in the East, starting a comeback from nowhere with All-Star guard Trae Young and three other key players sidelined by injuries.

It was the first 30-point win since the 2021-22 Los Angeles Clippers beat the Wizards 116-115 after trailing by 35 points, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Before Monday's game, the number of teams was 5-2,606 over the past 25 years in games in which they trailed by at least 30 points.

It was also Atlanta's biggest win since at least the 1997-98 season, when the NBA began retaining detailed plays.

Dejounte Murray put the Hawks ahead to keep the score 117-116 after a reverse layup with one minute left. Jaylen Brown missed a desperate 3 as the shot clock expired, and Hunter closed things out at the other end with a huge assist from Clint Capela.

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After Murray missed a jumper, Capela grabbed the offensive rebound and spotted Hunter alone at the top of the key. Even though the shot clock was down and Hunter could have forced the Celtics into a foul, he left an open look from 26 feet out.

Hunter went through the scenario before he even got the ball.

“If you pass it to me, I'll shoot,” Hunter said to himself. “He got the rebound and passed it to me, so I shot it.”

Hawks coach Quin Snyder had no problem with the decision, which seemed ill-advised.

“He didn't hesitate,” Snyder said. “He shot the ball with confidence, and I had confidence in him.”

It was a shocking loss for the Celtics in what has been a winning season, to a team that came into the night 25½ games behind them in the Eastern Conference standings.

Jayson Tatum, who led the Celtics with 37 points, said: “We left our feet off the mark in the second half, and they set a great pace.” “It's a tough pill to swallow.”

Atlanta's comeback began with a 9-0 run to end the first half, which narrowed the gap to 74-56 as the two teams headed to the locker room.

The momentum carried over into the third quarter, which began with Atlanta scoring 19 of the next 23 points to cut the deficit to 78-75.

After the Celtics tried to pull away again several times, the Hawks finally took their first lead of the night when little-used Wesley Matthews hit a 3-pointer to make it 97-96 with 9:42 remaining.

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Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 22 points and Murray added 19, but it was several players who usually sit on the bench who really carried the Hawks.

Viet Craigie scored 16 points, including a 3-pointer that had him shrugging his shoulders at his teammates as if he couldn't really believe what was happening. Bruno Fernando scored 13 points, and Matthews missed two crucial three-pointers.

“I felt like everything we were doing was going smoothly [right] “For us, it was a really good moment. We have to find a way to feel that way throughout the game,” Craigie said.

With a large number of green-clad fans cheering them on in Atlanta, the Celtics doubled the home team's advantage in the first quarter by taking a 44-22 lead.

Boston made 16 of 24 shots in the opening period, including 5 of 7 beyond the 3-point arc, as well as going 7 of 7 at the foul line.

Tatum finished the half with 23 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 steal. But he was fouled a bit in the second half by Craigie, who began picking up the Boston star from one end of the court to the other.

Brown added 24 points for the Celtics.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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