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Avery Bradley scored a career-high 28 points, but the Boston Celtics fell to the Atlanta Hawks, 97-92, Friday night. Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 30 points while Josh Smith chipped in 19 points and 12 rebounds.
The Celtics led 7-6 early in the first quarter, but they failed never led after that. The Celtics cut the Hawks lead to one point several times in the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t sneak past the Hawks and Johnson. Dooling cut the lead to 87-86 on a layup with 2:32 remaining in regulation, but Johnson answered back with five straight points to put the Celtics away for good.
If the Celtics got a little more from their power forwards, the outcome of Friday’s game may have been different. Brandon Bass and JaJuan Johnson combined to shoot just 6-for-22 from the field, and both missed several potential momentum-changing jump shots in the fourth quarter.
Keyon Dooling led the Celtics with 17 while filling in for Rajon Rondo in the starting lineup. Doc Rivers chose to rest five of his veterans Friday, as Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Mickael Pietrus all sat in addition to Rondo.
Friday’s victory means two things for the Hawks: 1) They are likely locked in as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, and 2) they will likely have home court advantage over the Celtics as they now hold a 1.5 game lead.
The Celtics got an encouraging outing from from Marquis Daniels, who finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and four steals. Prior to Friday, any time Daniels has found himself with minutes in Rivers’ rotation this season, he’s struggled.
Bradley’s previous career high came Wednesday night against Orlando, when he went for 23 points. Bradley also recorded four of the Celtics’ 12 team steals.
The Celtics are now off until Tuesday when they face a Heat team that they’ve beaten in their previous two meetings.