Historic win for hawks

Paul Millsap (No. 4) of the Atlanta Hawks blocks a shot from Jae Crowder of the Boston Celtics during the 104-92 victory to eliminate their opponents in Game Six of the Eastern Conference quarter-finals on Thursday.
Paul Millsap (No. 4) of the Atlanta Hawks blocks a shot from Jae Crowder of the Boston Celtics during the 104-92 victory to eliminate their opponents in Game Six of the Eastern Conference quarter-finals on Thursday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Atlanta win first play-off series against Celtics in more than half a century, take on Cavs next

BOSTON • It took nearly 60 years, but the Atlanta Hawks finally found a way to beat the Boston Celtics in the National Basketball Association (NBA) play-offs.

Atlanta had not won a post-season series against Boston since 1958, the year they won their lone NBA title.

The Hawks had also lost 10 straight play-off games in Boston dating back to 1988 entering Thursday, including Games 3 and 4 last weekend at TD Garden.

In Game 6, the Hawks used the lessons from those losses to come away with a 104-92 victory, eliminating the Celtics on their home court.

"This is a great environment to play in," said Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver.

"They just breathe confidence into their team. We felt like we had our chances in Games 3 and 4, and just execution wasn't good and a couple of mental mistakes. A couple of lapses that you just can't have on the road.

"I thought tonight, until the last two minutes, we played a really great game."

Paul Millsap had 17 points and eight rebounds, Al Horford and Kent Bazemore each scored 15 points, and Korver added 14 points and nine rebounds for Atlanta, who face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round beginning on Monday at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Hawks lost all three meetings with the Cavaliers during the regular season by an average of 9.7 points. Cleveland also swept Atlanta when the two teams met in last season's Eastern Conference finals.

"We just won Game 6 in Boston," Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said.

"I don't have any thoughts about Cleveland. We'll start preparing - we may actually take a second to enjoy tonight - and at the appropriate time we'll start preparing.

"Our guys will be ready, I can guarantee that."

Boston won 48 games during the regular season, highlighted by a 109-106 win to snap the Golden State Warriors' NBA-record 54-game home winning streak on April 1, and won 19 of their final 22 games at home.

A pair of sluggish starts, including a seven-point first quarter in Game 2, did the Celtics in on the road, but they snapped back into form at home for Games 3 and 4.

But in Game 5 in Atlanta, Boston again lacked energy and could not get their mojo back in Game 6.

"We learnt a lot through this play-off series, but one of the things that I learnt is we've got to get better," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said.

Isaiah Thomas had a double-double with 25 points and 10 assists to lead Boston. Jae Crowder finished with 15 points and Marcus Smart and Jonas Jerebko each added 13 for the Celtics.

Despite their struggles, Thomas hopes he will not be seeing too many new faces in the locker room next year.

"I'll ride with these guys until the wheels fall off," Thomas said.

"This was a special group. Hopefully we can all stick together and have something special in the future."

The Hawks outscored the Celtics 39-26 in the third quarter and led 89-61 with 9min 51sec remaining. The Celtics battled back to 96-86 with 1:48 left but it was too late and they crashed out of the first round of the post-season for the third consecutive year.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2016, with the headline 'Historic win for hawks'. Print Edition | Subscribe