Celtics blow another lead, lose ninth straight
Atlanta Hawks' Paul Millsap, right, passes the ball past Boston Celtics' Jared Sullinger, left, and Chris Johnson in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo, center, looks to pass the ball against the defense of Atlanta Hawks' Paul Millsap, from left, Jeff Teague and DeMarre Carroll, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Atlanta Hawks' Shelvin Mack, left, puts up a shot against the defense of Boston Celtics' Joel Anthony in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Boston Celtics' Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley, center left and right, watch a rebound fall into the hands of Atlanta Hawks' DeMarre Carroll, right, as teammates Paul Millsap, left, and Kyle Korver look on in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
ATLANTA – Jeff Teague scored 19 points, Kyle Korver added 17 and the Atlanta Hawks helped their playoff chances with a 105-97 victory over the Boston Celtics last night.
With four games remaining in the regular season, Atlanta increased its lead to two games over the New York Knicks for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Avery Bradley finished with 24 points and Rajon Rondo had 19 points with 12 assists for Boston, which has lost nine straight.
The Celtics dropped their 13th in a row on the road, breaking the franchise mark set during the final 13 games of the 1978-79 season.
The Hawks, who never trailed after Korver hit his second straight 3-pointer to make it 93-92 with 3:09 remaining, avoided losing at home for the second straight night to a team eliminated from playoff contention.
Paul Millsap had 14 points and 14 rebounds and Elton Brand added 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Hawks, who have won four of six.
Boston, which blew a 19-point third-quarter lead and lost at Detroit in its most recent game on Saturday, couldn’t hold a nine-point advantage with 5:44 remaining.
The Hawks’ next three games are against teams ahead of them in the East, including Saturday at home against two-time defending champion Miami.
Atlanta matched its biggest lead of the first half at 14 when Shelvin Mack hit a 3 to make it 49-35 at the 6:31 mark of the second.
But Rondo, who sat out the loss to the Pistons to rest his surgically repaired right knee, scored seven points in the last 2:34 of the second, helping Boston cut the lead to 56-51 at halftime.
Rondo had a few dazzling moments in his first game in Atlanta since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament Jan. 25, 2013, at Philips Arena.
Early in the third, Jared Sullinger stole the ball from Brand under the Atlanta basket and flipped the ball to Rondo, who bounced a pass halfway up the court that led to Jeff Green’s fastbreak layup and cut the lead to 56-53.
About six minutes later, Rondo stole an inbound pass from Brand and hit a runner. He followed on the ensuing possession by driving on Teague and hitting a jumper in the lane to give Boston its first lead at 67-66.
The Celtics’ biggest lead was nine on Rondo’s two free throws with 5:44 remaining.
But Boston was outscored 19-3 over the next 4:31.
Sullinger finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds for Boston.
∎ Bradley played his first game after missing the past three with a strained right Achilles tendon.
∎ Celtics F Kris Humphries did not travel after undergoing an MRI on his right knee. Coach Brad Stevens did not have an update on Humphries before the game.
∎ Boston had won four of the previous five against the Hawks.