Hawks 100, Celtics 96

Preview | Box Score | Recap

ATLANTA (AP)—The NBA’s worst free-throw shooting team still believes the key to winning is to shoot more free throws.

The plan worked for the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.

Al Harrington scored 21 points and went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the last two minutes to help the Hawks overcome a 17-point deficit and beat the Boston Celtics 100-96.

“We’ve been talking about that all year. The key to winning close games is getting to the free-throw line,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “We did that in the fourth quarter and we really milked it. I thought that was the difference in the ballgame. Instead of having to rely on 20- or 30-foot jump shots, we were able to get to the free-throw line.”

The Hawks are last in the league, shooting 65.8 percent from the line, and through three quarters they had made only six of 13 attempts.

“It was ugly,” Harrington said.

But the Hawks made 12 of 15 free throws while outscoring the Celtics 31-16 in the final period.

“I made free throws at the end,” Harrington said. “I’ll take that every day.”

The Celtics have lost nine straight on the road.

“This was a horrible loss,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “We were playing good basketball. It was like Picasso. Then we decided it was showtime. One guy took a bad shot, another guy took a bad shot, and then it’s selfish time. … We lose our spirit so easily.”

Antoine Walker led the Hawks with 29 points against his former team. Rookie Josh Childress scored a career-high 19 points for Atlanta and hit a key 3-pointer that capped the Hawks’ comeback with 3:27 remaining.

“For a while they were the aggressor,” Childress said. “Then we became the aggressor. We got on the break and got on the free-throw line. We made them play us.”

Rookie Tony Allen scored a career-high 20 points in 27 minutes, and Paul Pierce added 17 points for Boston. Raef LaFrentz and Ricky Davis each had 15 for the Celtics.

“Tony kept us in the game,” Rivers said.

The Celtics scored the first 14 points of the second half to take a 64-47 lead.

“We played with a sense of urgency for about 10 minutes,” Rivers said. “To me, you deserve to get your butt kicked when you play that way. I think the basketball gods said, ‘Screw you’ tonight.”

Harrington, who set a career high with 17 rebounds, gave the Hawks a 96-94 lead by sinking two free throws with 53 seconds left. After Al Jefferson missed two free throws for Boston with 39 seconds left, Walker hit a jumper from the corner to push the lead to 98-94.

Davis pulled the Celtics to within two with two free throws, but Harrington answered with two more free throws with 13.9 seconds left.

Childress capped the comeback with a 3 to give the Hawks a 90-88 lead, forcing Rivers to call a timeout. Childress was 3-of-24 from the 3-point line for the season before making the shot.

Childress added nine rebounds and four steals as the Hawks snapped a three-game losing streak.

Allen was averaging 5.5 points a game for Boston. His previous scoring high was 18 points at Detroit on Jan. 2.

Notes

Atlanta F Obinna Ekezie was sent home before the game with the flu. … The Hawks arrived in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon after their scheduled flight following Friday night’s game in Chicago was delayed because of bad weather.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Boston
G. Payton G. Payton
1-9,  6 Pts
1 Rebs, 13 Assists
 Atlanta
A. Harrington A. Harrington
6-18,  21 Pts
17 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists