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Celtics use strong 2nd half to ground Hawks 105-95 for 8th straight win

Jayson Tatum scored 38 — 25 in the second half — and added 10 rebounds to take Super Bowl Sunday matinee

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

After a two-year absence, the Celtics today resumed their tradition of hosting a nationally televised matinee on Super Bowl Sunday. The football game will need to be a classic for Celtics fans to enjoy it more than Boston’s 105-95 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Jayson Tatum led a huge second half for Boston, with 38 points on 13-of-27 shooting. Tatum had 25 of his points after halftime as the Cs outscored the Hawks by 20 over the last 24 minutes.

Rob Williams had 10 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks, Jaylen Brown scored 17, and Marcus Smart added 13 points and 7 assists. Trae Young scored 30 for Atlanta, but shot just 9-of-26, and Bogdan Bogdanovic added 26 points.

The win extended the Celtics’ league-best winning streak to eight games. Their record now stands at 33-25, edging them a half-game ahead of Toronto for sixth place in the East and moving out of the perilous play-in tournament.

Daniel Theis was not available as the paperwork wasn’t complete for his trade from Houston. Atlanta’s John Collins missed the game with a sprained foot.

The Celtics entered the contest having won nine of their last 10 games, with the one loss coming at Atlanta on January 28. Payback was on their minds — although you couldn’t tell that by the sluggish way they started.

The Celtics missed their first 6 three-point attempts and flubbed numerous opportunities at the rim. Atlanta built a 19-13 advantage, then ran off nine straight while the Celtics often just stood there watching. In the 12 minutes, Boston shot just 7-of-22 and committed 4 turnovers. Meanwhile, the Hawks didn’t shoot much better (9-of-25), but made 5 triples and outrebounded the Celtics, 19-12. Trae stood out with 13 points, and at the buzzer it was 28-17, Atlanta.

Boston bounced back to start the second quarter, holding the Hawks without a field goal for the first five minutes. Derrick White provided a lift, draining a pair of threes, and Boston closed to within 30-27. But just as quickly, Atlanta rebuilt the lead back to 45-33, sparked by treys from Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams.

At halftime, both teams were shooting 17-of-45 (37.8%), but the Hawks were up, 55-45, because they continued to own the boards (32 to 24) and were 9 of 22 from the arc compared to Boston’s 4 of 20. They were led by Young (18 points) and Bogdanovic (12). For the Celtics, Tatum had 13 points, but made just 5-of-13 (1-of-6) from the field.

The Celts came back from the locker room with energy after halftime. After Young hit a foul-line jumper, Boston roared back with 12 straight points to tie the score at 57. The run featured threes from Tatum and Al Horford and Smart drawing fouls on both ends of the court.

When Horford drilled another three in transition, the Celtics had their first lead of the day at 62-61. The Celtics gradually increased their lead behind a suddenly hot Tatum (16 points in the quarter) and Brown (11 points in the quarter after a tough first half). Boston made 13-of-18 shots to win the third period, 42-23, and led by 9 going to the fourth.

A White putback gave the C’s an 11-point lead, but two minutes of missed shots and turnovers opened the door for Atlanta to get back within 89-84. Tatum responded with a fadeaway in the paint and an above-the-break three for a 10-point Boston lead. Grant Williams then scored from the arc to make it 97-84 with 6:07 left.

Bad habits aren’t changed easily, so the Celtics allowed Atlanta to score 7 straight. After a timeout, Rob and Marcus scored on putbacks and the lead was back to 10. The Celtics closed it out by making their free throws.

The Celtics next travel to Philadelphia for a showdown with the Sixers on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. EST, televised only on TNT. The game will be crucial to Boston’s chances of catching Philly in the Eastern Conference standings.

For more postgame coverage of the Celtics’ dominant third quarter and winning streak, tune into the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A. Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown. Plus, the guys will discuss Derrick White’s fit in Boston and give their Super Bowl predictions.

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