Thomas steadies Celtics, Horford triumphant in return home
ATLANTA — Isaiah Thomas has no problem taking charge of the Boston Celtics late in the fourth quarter.
In the final seconds, Thomas waved off coach Brad Stevens’ timeout and ran the play himself, stepping back to hit a 19-foot jumper with 2 seconds remaining,
“He trusts me,” Thomas said. “At the end he said, ‘Hell of a shot.'”
Thomas scored 13 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, Al Horford made a triumphant return and the Celtics snapped the Atlanta Hawks’ seven-game winning streak with a 103-101 victory Friday night.
Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. each had 23 points for Atlanta. The Hawks had won 12 of 16 to move into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
But the third-place Celtics hit 17 3-pointers and got a season-high 26 points from reserve forward Kelly Olynyk to push past a Hawks team that missed too many open looks from the perimeter.
Horford, a fan favorite during his nine seasons in Atlanta, was booed many times throughout the night after leaving the team as a free agent last summer. He received a standing ovation, though, and waved happily to the crowd after the Hawks showed a brief video tribute between the first and second quarters.
“That was pretty cool,” Horford said. “That was a good video looking back at my career here.”
Horford finished with 10 points, six rebounds and six assists in 35 minutes.
“Like I said, a guy like that, with that type of character, you can’t boo him,” Thomas said. “That’s disrespectful.”
Thomas was unstoppable in the closing minutes, hitting a 15-footer and a 3-pointer before knocking down the 19-footer that made it 103-101. Millsap missed a jumper at the buzzer.
“We were running some different guys at him from the standpoint of getting different matchups in the pick-and-roll,” Stevens said. “He made a heck of a shot to win the game. It was a great play.”
Boston blistered Atlanta in the third, using a 20-5 run to go up 77-57 on Terry Rozier’s 21-footer.
Hardaway’s short jumper trimmed the lead to 91-85 with 4:24 remaining, and Mike Dunleavy, making his Atlanta debut for the first time since last week’s trade, rattled in a corner 3 to pull the Hawks within two at the 2:12 mark.
The Celtics hit eight of its first 11 beyond the arc to take a 28-16 lead at the 2:33 mark of the first, but missed their next 10 attempts on 3s to help Atlanta force a 42-all tie on a pair of free throws by Millsap.
“It was a heck of a comeback,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It was a heck of a game. We’ll learn from it. We’ll be better going forward.”
Celtics: Jae Crowder added 18 points, including four 3s. … Boston began the night ranked 29th in rebounding — 18 spots behind Atlanta — but each team grabbed 43 boards. Crowder had a game-high nine and Olynyk had eight.
Hawks: G Dennis Schroder picked up his fourth foul midway through the third and finished with just four points on 2 for 11 shooting. … Reserve forward Mike Muscala went 0 for 7 from the field and didn’t score. … Dunleavy, acquired in the trade that sent Kyle Korver to Cleveland on Jan. 7, scored six points on a pair of 3s.
KEEP IT COMING
Olynyk, a reserve forward, played so well in the first half, going 7 for 9 from the field for 18 points, that Stevens put him on the floor over Amir Johnson to begin the third. Johnson played just 8 minutes of the second half and ended the game scoreless.
TRIBUTE TO PISTOL PETE
The Hawks wore dark blue and lime green-trimmed uniforms for the first time since the early 2000s. The strange-looking design was made memorable by Pete Maravich, the star guard who played his first four seasons in Atlanta through 1973-74.
Celtics C Tyler Zeller, sidelined with a sinus infection, didn’t make the trip and was inactive for the sixth straight game. Stevens said Zeller has undergone a gamut of tests because he still feels disoriented. “He gets final results tomorrow but he’s feeling a lot better in the last couple of days,” Stevens said. “It’s dissipated a little bit.”
Celtics: Host Charlotte on Monday.
Hawks: Host Milwaukee on Sunday.