Jeff Teague stymied another big Boston comeback, taking matters into his own hands in the closing minutes to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 102-101 victory over the Celtics in Game 1 of the opening-round playoff series Saturday night.
Teague scored 23 points and doled out 12 assists, making sure Atlanta maintained the home-court edge after the gritty Celtics rallied from a 19-point deficit.
With the game tied at 88, Teague worked the pick-and-roll to set up a layup for Al Horford. The Celtics missed and the Hawks again got the ball to Teague, who found Paul Millsap alone under the basket for a dunk that pushed Atlanta to a 92-88 lead with 2:56 remaining.
The Celtics had a chance to tie in the final minute, but Evan Turner missed an open 3-pointer.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night in Atlanta.
Jae Crowder gave the Celtics one more chance by knocking down a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left. But Teague, appropriately enough, sealed the win with a couple of free throws that kissed off the front of the rim and dropped through.
Horford scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Hawks, while Kent Bazemore came up big with 23 points.
Isaiah Thomas, after a sluggish start, led the Celtics with 27 points, including a long 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left that at least created a bit of suspense. The Hawks called timeout and managed to get away an inbounds pass that finally ended it.
The Celtics had rallied from a 24-point halftime deficit in the regular-season finale against Miami, coming back for a 98-88 victory that wasn’t enough to pull out home-court advantage in the first round.
They almost claimed it anyway, shaking off another dismal showing in the first half.
Over the first two quarters, Boston connected on just 12 of 52 (23 percent) from the field and a mere 2 of 16 from 3-point range. Atlanta led 51-34 at the break, focusing its defensive efforts on Thomas. He started out being guarded by Teague, then went against Dennis Schroder, before 6-foot-7 Thabo Sefolosha — nearly a foot taller than the diminutive point guard — provided a totally different look in the second quarter. Thomas had just six points at halftime.
But Thomas and the Celtics turned the tide in the third quarter, starting out on an 11-3 spurt.
Suddenly, it was the Hawks who couldn’t make anything. They knocked down only 6 of 20 shots in the period, including a 1-of-9 showing beyond the arc. The Celtics closed the gap to 72-65 heading to the final period.
The comeback was complete when Marcus Smart made a 3 from the corner to tie the game at 80 with 7:22 remaining. Then, after the Hawks missed again, Crowder swished another trey from the opposite side of the court to put the Celtics ahead for the first time all night, 83-80.
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