Hawks guard Jeff Teague drives to the basket past Celtics forward Jeff Green in Wednesday's game. (Reuters)
ATLANTA - Trailing by nine points to the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, the Atlanta Hawks were in danger of losing to the Detroit Pistons and Celtics on back-to-back nights. Their lead over the New York Knicks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference was about to be trimmed to one game.
Then, Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague and guard Kyle Korver took over.
Korver hit three 3-pointers during a fourth-quarter rally, leading the Hawks to a come-from-behind 105-97 win over the Celtics at Philips Arena.
The win pushed Atlanta's lead to two games over the idle Knicks with four games to play. But it wasn't easy.
The Celtics led 89-80 with 5:43 to play, before Teague ignited a charge with a 3-pointer followed by a steal and dunk. Korver then hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Hawks their first lead since early in the third quarter.
Teague finished with 19 points and eight assists. Korver had 17 points, including four 3-pointers.
The loss was Boston's ninth in a row overall and 13th in a row on the road. And it was a complete collapse.
The Celtics (23-55) were in control after guard Avery Bradley hit a jumper that put Boston up 89-80 with six minutes left. Bradley finished with a game-high 24 points, but could not answer the Hawks' late push.
Atlanta (35-43) plays the Nets in Brooklyn on Friday, before returning home against the Miami Heat in a preview of a potential first-round playoff matchup. The Hawks finish the regular season against the Charlotte Bobcats and Milwaukee Bucks.
The Knicks (33-45), who haven't played since Sunday, have two games remaining against the Toronto Raptors in addition to a home game against the Chicago Bulls and a road game at Brooklyn.
After getting off to a sluggish start in a loss to the Pistons on Tuesday, Atlanta started off red-hot against the Celtics. The Hawks jumped out to a 7-0 lead and shot 77.8 percent from the field in the first quarter. They had 17 assists on 23 field goals in the first half and led 56-51 at halftime.
Atlanta cooled off in the second half. A Bradley jumper tied the score at 56-56 early in the third quarter, and point guard Rajon Rondo's floater gave the Celtics their first lead at 67-66 with five minutes to go in the quarter. Rondo finished with 19 points and 12 assists for the Celtics.
NOTES: The Atlanta Hawks put playoff tickets on sale earlier in the week even though the team remains in a tight race for the final Eastern Conference postseason slot. ... Boston F Kris Humphries did not travel to Atlanta and was due to undergo an MRI on his right knee Wednesday. ... Atlanta C Pero Antic (ankle) missed the game. Veteran big man Elton Brand started in Antic's place. ... Boston G Avery Bradley (ankle/Achilles) returned after missing the last three games. ... The Hawks shot 77.8 percent from the floor in the first quarter.