BOSTON — When shots weren’t falling for Atlanta during a woeful start to the second quarter, the Hawks started going inside to Paul Millsap and never stopped.
Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
Jeff Teague scored 16 points and Kyle Korver added 14 for Atlanta.
“At the beginning of the game it wasn’t really what they were doing. It’s what we didn’t do. We didn’t execute well. We didn’t share the basketball like we normally do,” said Millsap, who had his best game for the Hawks since signing as a free agent in the offseason. “When we settled down, got stops and moved the basketball around, everybody got in a groove.”
The Hawks barely made one third of their shots, going 33 for 91, but Millsap was nearly unstoppable inside. He was 12 for 14 from the field and forced his way to the foul line, where he made 10 of 14 free throws.
“We were able to find a way to win a game where we weren’t able to shoot well from the perimeter, from the basket, really from anywhere except for Paul Millsap,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Boston pulled away on a 19-4 run to start the second quarter, but Atlanta closed the period on a 15-0 run and set up a back-and-forth finish.
“We started off the game so terribly. We just couldn’t find any kind of rhythm and they had us totally out of synch,” said Korver, who extended his NBA record streak of games with a 3-pointer to 101. “We were dead in the water there for a little while. We just felt like we couldn’t get anything going. We got a little momentum and were able to carry that over to the second half.”
Boston had two shots to win after Shelvin Mack missed a layup in the final minute, but couldn’t convert. Jordan Crawford missed with about eight seconds remaining and Boston ended up with the rebound and called time out. Crawford tried again at the buzzer but his shot bounced off the backboard.
“I felt like it was a good opportunity. Jordan lives for that,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “I think he’ll probably beat himself up over it, but that’s OK. We play again on Thursday.”
Kelly Olynyk scored a career-high 21 points and Kris Humphries had 18 points and 10 rebounds as Boston’s reserves scored 56 — more than half of the team’s total. None of Boston’s starters scored in double figures.
Brandon Bass was closest with nine points and Jared Sullinger pulled down 10 rebounds.
The lead went back-and-forth down the stretch until Atlanta clinched it in the final minutes. After Millsap put the Hawks up 90-89, Crawford answered with a long jumper that beat the shot clock and put Boston back up 91-90 with 1:36 left. It was the last field goal of the game.
Teague drew a foul with 1:30 left and made both shots and the Hawks held on for the win.
The Celtics led 23-20 after the first and opened second on a 19-4 run for a 42-24 lead. Atlanta responded by scoring the last 15 points of the period and then opened the third quarter with a 10-4 run and took a 54-48 lead on a layup by Teague. Olynyk started Boston on a 9-0 run with a 3-pointer, then Crawford converted a three-point play and added a 3-pointer to put the Celtics up 57-54.
Korver’s streak appeared to be in jeopardy through the third period after he missed his first five attempts from beyond-the-arc. His sixth was good, though, and he drew a foul for a four-point play that pulled the Hawks within 83-76 with 6:10 remaining.
“The whole section up there was reminding me I hadn’t hit one,” Korver said. “I was trying to make shots to make shots, not just to keep the streak going.”
Notes: The Hawks’ streak of nine straight games scoring more than 100 points ended. … Atlanta center Al Horford was scheduled for surgery Tuesday to repair his torn right pectoral muscle. The Hawks announced Monday that Horford, the Hawks’ leading scorer and rebounder, was out for the season. … The Celtics closed December at 6-6.