Atlanta Hawks complete biggest comeback in franchise history to stun NBA-leading Boston Celtics

March 30, 2024

Leading by 30 points before the end of the second quarter on Monday, the Boston Celtics looked set to improve their NBA-best record and extend their winning streak to 10 games in a row.The Atlanta Hawks, however, had other ideas.Despite trailing 68-38 with just over four minutes to go until halftime, the Hawks erased the 30-point deficit and soared to a shocking 120-118 victory over the Celtics.Per the NBA, the stunning upset was the biggest comeback in Hawks history (since data was first tracked in the 1997/98 season) and the largest comeback in the NBA this season.“Any time you’re down that much, you have to have something out of the ordinary to get back in the game,” said Hawks coach Quin Snyder. “And when you have a group of people you know who are behind you, thick or thin, rain or shine – and there was a lot of rain early – they were a big part of helping the sun come out tonight.”Atlanta fans were forced to endure a nervy moment in the final seconds of the game, when Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter received the ball outside the three-point line after Clint Capela had successfully grabbed the offensive rebound.With Atlanta leading by one point with only 11 seconds to go, all basketball protocol and coaching dictates that Hunter should have held on to the ball and waited to be fouled by the Celtics in order to avoid giving possession back with time still left on the clock. Instead, Hunter let fly from three-point range and drilled the triple to seal the win, much to the relief of Hawks fans and his teammates.“If he passes it to me, I’m shooting,” Hunter said postgame, explaining the scenario. “He got the rebound, he passed it to me, so I shot it.”Snyder had no issues with Hunter’s decision.“He didn’t hesitate,” he said. “He shot the ball with confidence, and I had confidence in him.”The comeback victory was made all the more impressive by the fact that the Hawks were without All-Star point guard Trae Young, as well as rising star Jalen Johnson.All five Hawks starters scored in double figures, with Hunter leading the way with 24 points. Bogdan Bogdanović scored 22 while Dejounte Murray had 19 points and 15 assists.While the win elicited smiles and joy for Atlanta, it was embarrassment for Boston, which suffered a concerning loss to a team which sits nine spots behind the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings as the regular season heads towards its conclusion.After securing the No. 1 seed in the East and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, complacency seemed to set in for the Celtics on Monday as the Hawks went on an 18-6 run to close the first half and then a 19-4 run to cut Boston’s lead to only two points four minutes into the third quarter.“We let our foot off the gas in the second half, and they got in a great rhythm. We turned the ball over a little bit and then it became a ball game,” said Celtics star Jayson Tatum after the game.Tatum led Boston with 37 points, eight rebounds and five assists on the night; in the absence of both Jrue Holiday and Derrick White, Tatum was unusually listed as the team’s starting point guard.It was a very disappointing night for Tatum and the Celtics.The Celtics drop to 57-15 on the season but still own the league’s best record heading towards the postseason. The Hawks, meanwhile, improve to 32-39 and remain in the fight for a spot in the Play-In tournament.Boston will have a chance at redemption on Thursday when the two sides clash again, though Atlanta is scheduled to take on the Portland Trail Blazers at home on Wednesday.