ATLANTA — After exhibiting the poise of a 5-year-old after gulping down 64-ounce Slurpee for the first three quarters against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night. The Celtics gathered themselves after another miserable stretch and decided to play with the calmness and execution not seen since their four-game winning streak — which seemed like weeks ago.
They took care of the ball, set solid screens, chased loose balls, and avoided any of the discouragement created by a painful six-game losing streak. Jordan Crawford, who played distributor through the first three quarter, then picked the most opportune time to spark the offense.
Crawford, one of six Celtics scoring in double figures, added 10 assists. Brandon Bass led Boston (5-10) with 17 points while Jeff Green added 16.
Atlanta missed 18 of 23 shots in the final quarter and scored 2 points in the final 3:17. The Hawks had led, 81-70, on a Mike Scott 3-pointer with 9:30 left.
Al Horford led the Hawks with 18 points but the Celtics defense harassed Jeff Teague (13 points on 3-for-15 shooting) in the final period, taking Atlanta completely out of its offense.
The Celtics nearly collapsed in the third quarter, allowing the Hawks to go on an 17-5 run to end the period for a 74-64 lead. Teague (10 assists) toyed with the Boston defense on the pick-and-roll and was allowed to set up his teammates for easy baskets. He added a runner along with a Cartier Martin jumper to conclude the period.
The Celtics made just 26.7 percent of their shots in the frame and committed six turnovers. Atlanta capitalized fully on Boston’s inability to take care of the ball, scoring a whopping 29 points off 16 turnovers through three quarters.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he’s trying to curtail the Celtics’ habit for porous offensive quarters and they began the second with one field goal in the first 3:52 as the Hawks took command with an 8-2 run. Atlanta shot 50 percent in the quarter, scoring layups at will at times because of constant defensive breakdowns.