Irving leads Celtics over Hawks

Los Angeles (AFP) – Kyrie Irving bagged 35 points as the Boston Celtics notched their ninth straight victory with a 110-107 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

Irving broke the 30-point barrier for the first time since joining the Celtics as Boston made hard work of edging past the 2-9 Hawks.

Boston needed a three-pointer from Irving with 1min 37sec remaining to finally subdue the Hawks, giving the Celtics a 104-103 lead.

It was the final twist of a game that saw no fewer than 25 lead changes.

“He made huge plays down the stretch,” coach Brad Stevens said of Irving. “I thought he not only made the plays, but he made a lot of right reads, too.”

Stevens said he suspected Irving might be due a big performance after an 11-point outing in his previous game at Orlando on Sunday.

“When you’re coaching against people, I always look at the box score for the game before,” Stevens said.

“If they really struggled but they’re really good, that’s just scary stuff. Guys like that don’t have quiet nights twice in a row.”

Jayson Tatum also weighed in with a double-digit tally, scoring 21 points while pulling down eight rebounds. Al Horford added 15 points while Jaylen Brown chipped in with 11 points.

But Irving’s virtuoso display was the main talking point amongst his team-mates after the win.

“It’s exciting to be out there on his side, watching him do all those incredible things,” said Celtics rookie Tatum. “He’s a great player.”

Irving, meanwhile, was pleased with the way Boston held on to close out the win.

“We had to get our act together,” Irving said. “You could just tell that mentally and physically, we were dragging a little bit.”

Atlanta saw Dennis Schroder score 23 points, while Dewayne Dedmon and Marco Belinelli each had 19 points. Dedmon also finished with 12 rebounds.

Irving’s decisive late three-pointer settled a wild encounter which had seen the Hawks battle back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to lead 96-95 with five minutes left on the clock.

Irving’s three-pointer broke Atlanta’s resistance, however, to give Boston their best winning streak since the 2010 campaign.

Boston now lead the Eastern Conference with a 9-2 record. Atlanta, who had stunned Cleveland on Sunday in an upset win, are bottom of the conference at 2-9.

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