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Hawks overcome 23 point lead to stun struggling Celtics

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The Boston Celtics built up a 23 point lead in the first half, but couldn't hang on against a Hawks team that has been dominant in the 4th quarter this season.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The fourth quarter woes continued for the Boston Celtics, as the Atlanta Hawks overcame a 23-point deficit to extend Boston's losing streak to five games.

Boston got off to a blazing start, scoring a season-high 42 points in the opening quarter - the most a Celtics team has scored in the first quarter since 1984. Boston shot a blistering 77% in the quarter to help offset the fact that their defense gave up 30 points on over 52% shooting.

An 11-0 Celtics run to open the second quarter pushed their lead to 23 mid-way through the quarter. That gave Boston their first 20+ point lead since their opening night win over the Brooklyn Nets. While both teams began to cool off, Boston still took a comfortable 16-point lead into the half.

Jeff Green scored 16 of his game-high 25 points in the first half by aggressively attacking the rim. With Green handling the scoring, Rajon Rondo focused on dishing the ball to his teammates. He finished with only 2 points, but piled up a season-high 19 assists and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Atlanta chipped away in the third quarter as Kyle Korver scored 10 of his team-high 24 points. Korver was a blistering 8-of-9 from the field, including 6 three-pointers. Brad Stevens talked before the game about how dangerous Korver was. Despite that he averages just under 13 points per game, you have to prepare for him as if he'll score 30 - which he almost did tonight. Brian Scalabrine mentioned during the game that Korver may be the best catch-and-shoot player he's ever seen and he did little to disprove that theory in this game.

The Celtics were still clinging to a five point lead entering the fourth quarter, but couldn't feel great about their chances knowing how much they've struggled to finish games this season. To make matters worse, Atlanta is the highest scoring fourth quarter team in the league (27.5 points), compared to Boston's 23rd ranked 23.1 points in the fourth quarter.

Boston still managed to keep it close down the stretch, but Jeff Green's mid-range jumper failed to tie the game, leading to a transition bucket on the other end that put the Hawks ahead by two possessions. Green would hoist a desperation three in the final seconds that clanged off the rim to seal the win for Atlanta.