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Al Horford closes out 113-105 victory for Celtics over Hawks

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Kyrie Irving scores 30 again, an ejection, an ugly finish, but a win nonetheless. Celtics score their third straight.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing worked exactly how the Celtics wanted it to between a key ejection, Al Horford hitting key free throws after a missed layup and Jayson Tatum cleaning up a Marcus Morris airball late.

Boston trailed nearly all game playing for the second straight night going south to Atlanta, but another explosive, 32-point game by Kyrie Irving and a late 14-5 run got the team out of the building with their third straight win. For a group fixated on consistency, it worked for a 113-105 victory.

The Hawks returned their young core of Taurean Prince and John Collins alongside Trae Young, and that burst of youthful energy hit the Celtics in the face early in the back-to-back.

Collins hit Boston’s defense with a hard, two-handed, put-back slam then proceeded to lay in a three-point play in the pick-and-roll and splash a three from the right corner in the opening minutes. Kevin Huerter and Young added buckets as the Hawks built a 20-11 lead.

Atlanta opened the game 13-for-23 from the field while Irving flung a kick-out to Jayson Tatum out of bounds, and Marcus Morris stumbled out dribbling a ball into the offensive zone. A put-back by Alex Len pushed the Hawks into double figures, and Vince Carter turned back the clock to dish a perfect pick-and-roll pass to DeAndre’ Bembry inside for a three-point play.

Irving led the C’s closer with a three-pointer and three-point play on a leaning baseline jumper, but the Hawks carried a 36-28 lead into the second.

Huerter lit up the ensuing minutes with back-to-back threes, sending Irving into attack mode with a unique lineup of Brad Wanamaker, Daniel Theis, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier by his side. His drive and kick to Theis for three and his own three-point bomb steps behind the line capped a 12-2 run.

Irving extended it further hitting a mid-ranger, assisting to Al Horford and scoring off Horford’s assist after, then matching two Atlanta three-pointers directly before half. The run capped at 26-15, and the C’s drew within 67-60 at the half.

The Hawks continued to hit shots at a maddening rate behind a Collins three-point roll to the rim and Huerter hitting another three to reach 16 points. Marcus Smart, trailing by nine, looked to muck up the game by chatting to the point of a technical, drawing a charge struggling in the post with Collins and posting up Young to get two free throws. Seconds later, on a jump ball, he and Bembry exchanged words that led to Smart’s ejection with a second foul. As security and C’s staff tried to move Smart off the floor, he zipped toward Bembry as more staffed poured in to cool him down.

The Celtics woke up, jumping into transition and getting blocks from Horford and Tatum in succession to spark a 4-0 Tatum run that made it a 76-73 game in favor of Atlanta. Boston continued to push back, but the Hawks held a steady advantage at 89-83 into the fourth behind a Prince three, a Jeremy Lin layup and Prince transition runs.

Boston finally broke through the wall when they took a lead for the first time since 3-2 early in the final frame. Brown fed Rozier on a pass ahead of the defense, Baynes tipped in a miss and Brown pushed his own 5-0 run with free throws and a drive-and-kick three from Rozier. The C’s—behind Brown—stood ahead 95-93.

Brown pushed his run further with a pair of free throws, but Young quickly got Atlanta within one on a three. The C’s finished on a 14-5 run, six straight coming from Horford around the rim to close the game out. Irving danced, nearly fell with the ball, and slipped inside for one last layup to close the door at 109-100.

Irving and company, three straight 30-point performances and wins in hand, now head home for their third game in four nights against the Heat.