NBA Basketball

Celtics won't find easy prey when visiting Hawks

Over the last month the Atlanta Hawks are playing more like a young club that is starting to find its way rather than the pushover it was earlier this season.

Atlanta will again test itself against another playoff opponent Saturday when the Boston Celtics come to town.

The Hawks (14-30) are 8-7 over their past 15 games, a streak that includes wins at Philadelphia and, most recently, at home against Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

Boston (27-18) snapped a three-game losing streak on Wednesday by beating Eastern Conference power Toronto and followed up with a 122-116 victory over Memphis on Friday. The Celtics had dropped games to Miami, Orlando and Brooklyn -- all on the road -- before knocking off the Raptors.

"It felt good to get a win against a great team like the Raptors and kind of make a statement for ourselves that we're obviously capable of playing against the best and beating the best," Boston guard Kyrie Irving said.

Irving, who had 27 points and 18 assists against Toronto, was big again vs. Memphis. He scored 20 of his 38 points in the third quarter. Irving has been a problem for the Hawks, scoring 24 against Atlanta in their last meeting.

Boston has won both meetings with Atlanta this season. The Celtics took a 114-96 decision on Nov. 23 in Atlanta and whipped the Hawks 129-108 in Boston on Dec. 14. They will play for the final time on March 16 in Boston.

Atlanta's 142-126 win over the Thunder was one of its best performances of the season. The Hawks shot a season-high 62.2 percent from the floor, nearly six percentage points higher than its previous best. Their 142 marked the team's high for the season.

Rookie Trae Young led the attack. He scored 24 points, which included four 3-pointers, and added 11 assists and six rebounds. It was his 14th double-double of the season.

"The shots just kept falling," Young said.

"When you see the ball go in like we did, I think it just keeps rolling. It feels good. To get a win against one of the top teams in the league is pretty special for us."

Young appears to have exited from his rookie scoring woes. He scored 26 points and had 10 rebounds against Milwaukee in the previous game. He is also moving up the club's single-season rookie assist list, sitting in fifth place with 317 -- only 86 behind the mark set by Armond Hill in 1976-77.

Forward John Collins is also playing at a high level. The second-year forward made his first 11 shots from the floor against the Thunder and finished with 26 points. Over the last six games, he's averaging 21.3 points and shooting 61.2 percent.

Atlanta was without backup point guard Jeremy Lin (flu-like symptoms) against Oklahoma City. Taurean Prince, who is on restricted minutes now that he's back from missing 18 games with because of an ankle injury, was limited because of the same sickness.

There is a chance Dewayne Dedmon (left ankle) could return on Saturday, but Kent Bazemore (right ankle) remains out.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 19, 2019

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