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Kristaps Porzingis hits dagger three to close out Hawks

The Latvian star spoke on his big night and the addition of Xavier Tillman to the Celtics roster.

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

On Wednesday night, the Boston Celtics took down the Atlanta Hawks in a 125-117 shootout at TD Garden. The scoring was back and forth throughout the game, and in the final minute, it was Kristaps Porzingis who put the Hawks to bed with a clutch three-pointer. It put an exclamation point on a stellar night from the Unicorn.

Porzingis led all scorers on the night, scoring 31 points on 13-of-19 from the field (2-of-4 from three), three rebounds, two blocks and an assist. It was KP’s 5th game of 30 points or more this season, and Boston’s offense was clicking despite Jrue Holiday being sidelined with an elbow injury. Boston’s biggest concerns came on defense against a talented Atlanta offense.

“We did that, and we got off to a good start offensively,” said Porzingis, “Not so great maybe defensively. But then we picked it up also in the second half defensively and got the job done.” Atlanta racked up 18 second chance points in addition to 18 fast break points over the course of the night.

On a cold shooting night from deep for Jayson Tatum (2-of-13 from three), a trio of Porzingis, Al Horford and Derrick White were finding their rhythm, scoring a combined 11 of Boston’s 17 made threes. Jaylen Brown chipped in as well, scoring 15 points on a hyper-efficient 7-of-11 from the field. The Celtics had six players in double figures, five of which scored at least 14 points against Atlanta. It’s clear that the Celtics offense has taken a step forward this year, and it’s in no small part to the addition of Porzingis.

“It’s been real seamless,” said Tatum on the addition of Kristaps Porzingis. “I would say he’s a high character person, and obviously a player. It just makes it easy for all of us on both ends of the floor, his ability to shoot over the top of anybody, attack mismatches.”

Personalities can clash in the NBA, and the Celtics took a gamble and won this past offseason. It came with a heavy price in trading Marcus Smart, but the team has undeniably become a lethal force on offense capable of scoring at every level. It’s been quite a while since the Celtics had a big of Porzingis’ caliber, and his impact has been immense in his time with the team.

With the need to shore up center depth behind Porzingis and Horford and the NBA trade deadline coming up at 3PM EST, the Celtics made a surprise trade before the team’s matchup against the Hawks, acquiring defensive piece Xavier Tillman from the Memphis Grizzlies for two second round picks and Lamar Stevens. Reports are suggesting that Boston is not done making moves as well, since they face cap restrictions in the summer due to the new CBA.

On what advice he would offer to Tillman as he learns Boston defense, Porzingis said “I think he’s going to have his processor pretty working...It’s a lot of adjustments on the go...We have to be ready to respond. Whatever the coverage, whatever the change is, whatever the matchup is in that moment.”

It’s hard to not get excited about the defensive versatility that Tillman brings to the table. Even the Celtics realize it. “His ability to defend, right?” said Porzingis on his new teammate, “Multiple positions. He has some tools offensively that can help us, but I think he’s a really strong defender and he can guard multiple guys which is going to be a huge advantage for us.” With the acquisition, the Celtics add a strong forward capable to playing both the 4 and 5, and a strong body that can make sure that KP can be as fresh as possible come playoff time.

Boston will take the floor again after the NBA trade deadline, as they welcome the Washington Wizards to town on Friday, 7:30 PM EST tipoff.

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