The Boston Celtics Monday night nearly joined the Cleveland Cavaliers as the second team to fall victim to the last-place Atlanta Hawks over a 24-hour span. However, unlike the Cavs, who lost to Atlanta by two points Sunday night on their home court, Boston had a player that was able to close out the Hawks.
That player was Kyrie Irving.
The four-time All-Star experienced plenty of success closing out games during his first six seasons as a Cavalier, but now the Celtics are reaping the benefits of his crunch-time abilities.
Irving scored 12 of his season-high 35 points during the fourth quarter of Monday night’s contest in Atlanta, including eight points during the final three minutes of play.
Boston was trailing 100-99 with 2:48 remaining in the game, when Irving began to go to work.
The point guard’s first bucket was made easy by Al Horford, as Boston’s big man fed him over the top for a wide-open, uncontested layup that put the Celtics ahead, 101-100.
Atlanta’s Malcolm Delaney responded on the next possession with a 3-pointer that put the Hawks back up by two; but Irving shot right back with a trey of his own off of a dribble handoff from Horford at the top of the arc.
Irving’s fellow Duke alumnus Jayson Tatum chipped in to help, as the rookie wing hit a 3-pointer to put Boston ahead, 107-103, with 47.6 seconds remaining.
Then it was back to Irving, who iced the cake with a midrange floating-jumper over Dennis Schroder with 20.3 seconds left on the clock.
Irving finished off his scoring run by going 1-of-2 from the free-throw line during the closing moments, as he just about single-handedly closed out the Hawks, while leading the C’s to their ninth straight win by a score of 110-107.