ATLANTA (AP) — The Hawks held the Boston Celtics to the lowest-scoring first quarter in the playoffs since the NBA went to the shot clock, building a 21-point lead and holding on despite an ugly shooting performance of their own for an 89-72 victory Tuesday night, giving Atlanta a 2-0 lead in the opening-round series.
Al Horford and Kyle Korver led Atlanta with 17 points apiece, but this game was essentially decided in the first 12 minutes.
The Hawks started out 9 of 13 from the field, knocking down six from beyond the 3-point arc. Korver made four from long range, a big turnaround from a 1-of-10 performance in Game 1 that didn’t include any 3s. Atlanta led 24-3 just 6 1-2 minutes into the game.
Even after failing to score the rest of the period, the Hawks still led 24-7 heading to the second.
That, for all intents and purposes, was it.
Game 3 is Friday night in Boston.
Boston struggling was not unexpected, given the Celtics were without two key players. Avery Bradley, the team’s second-leading scorer, went down in Game 1 with a badly strained hamstring and is unlikely to play the rest of the series. Then, after the morning shootaround, the Celtics ruled out key backup Kelly Olynyk because of a lingering shoulder injury.
Even so, no one expected it to be this bad.
Boston made just 3 of 23 shots from the field in the first period, missing all six attempts beyond the 3-point arc. Isaiah Thomas went 1 of 6. Marcus Smart, starting in place of Bradley, missed all five of his shots. Evan Turner and Tyler Zeller each went 0 for 3. The Hawks made things especially tough on the undersized Celtics from close in, blocking six shots.
According to STATS, the previous record for fewest points in an opening playoff quarter during the shot-clock era was eight, initially set by Utah in a 1988 game against the Los Angeles Lakers and matched by Dallas in 2010 at San Antonio. The league went to the 24-second clock in 1954.
It was also Boston’s lowest-scoring playoff quarter since the NBA was founded in 1949. The team made one playoff appearance in the league’s predecessor, the Basketball Association of America (BAA), but records from that series were not available.
For good measure, the Hawks matched their franchise record for the fewest points allowed in any playoff quarter. They also surrendered seven in the fourth period of a 90-64 win over the Miami Heat in 2009.
After their opening salvo, the Hawks made just 23 of 69 shots (33 percent) the rest of the way. It didn’t matter.
Thomas led the Celtics with 16 points on a 4-of-15 showing. Smart finished 1 of 11.
Celtics: Got as close as 10 in the second quarter, but never cut the early deficit below double digits. … Have lost seven straight playoff games over their last three postseason series. Their last victory was against the New York Knicks on May 1, 2013. … Olynyk said he’s hopeful of playing in Game 3, since he’ll have a couple of off days to rest his ailing shoulder. … Boston did manage to avoid its lowest-scoring playoff game, a 66-64 win over Detroit in 2002.
Hawks: Korver missed all seven of his 3-point attempts in Game 1. He finished this one 5 of 7. … Jeff Teague (13 points) and Thabo Sefolosha (12) were the only other double-figure scorers. … Recalled G/F Lamar Patterson from the D-League before the game to bolster depth. With the game decided, the rookie made his first career playoff appearance in the closing minutes, getting on the court with little-used veteran guard Kirk Hinrich.
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