THE NITTY GRITTY
Stop me if you've heard this script before: The Celtics built an early lead (as much as 18 points) only to let the opposition back into the game (Atlanta led by six midway through the third quarter). In fact, it happened twice as the Hawks rallied from another double-digit deficit late in the game. Boston's first unit really struggled as a group and coach Brad Stevens leaned heavily on his reserves, including at the end of the game. Rookie Kelly Olynyk scored a team-high (and career-high) 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting with five assists and four rebounds, while Kris Humphries added a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds). Paul Millsap scored a game-high 34 points on 12-of-19 shooting for the Hawks, while Jeff Teague added 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
TURNING POINT: GAME OF RUNS
The Hawks utilized a 30-6 run spanning into the second half to surge ahead and it culminated with a driving layup by Teague that had the Hawks out front 54-48. Fortunately for Boston, its second unit started rolling in and stopped the bleeding. The Celtics scored 19 points over the next four minutes (Olynyk and Jordan Crawford doing the heavy lifting) and opened a seven-point lead. Boston was up 11 with 6:28 to go, but no double-digit lead is safe around here. The Hawks roared back, setting up a back-and-forth final three minutes.
TURNING POINT II: SEESAW FINISH
The final 180 seconds saw six lead changes, and a pair of free throws by Teague had the Hawks out front 92-91 with 1:30 to go. Neither side could get anything to fall from there, but Boston utilized an offensive rebound to set up a final possession with 4.2 seconds to play. Crawford missed a jumper at the right elbow at the buzzer.
FEELING A DRAFT
The Celtics are in line to receive the Nets' 2014 first-round draft pick, but Atlanta has the ability to swap picks with Brooklyn based on the Joe Johnson trade. That means Boston will likely end up with the Hawks' pick if the Nets continue to struggle. Boston could have aided its potential draft position, but couldn't secure their second win over the Hawks this season.
The Celtics held Kyle Korver without a 3-pointer for 42 minutes of Tuesday's game, but he extended his NBA-record triple streak to 101 consecutive games by hitting one from the wing -- while being fouled -- with 6:10 to go. Korver had been 0-for-5 beyond the arc to that point. ... The Celtics rode their bench late in the game, keeping Humphries, Olynyk, and Courtney Lee (11 points) on the floor over starters Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Jared Sullinger. ... Vitor Faverani, Keith Bogans, and MarShon Brooks were all healthy DNPs for Boston.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (14-17) close out calendar year 2013 on a loss. Boston went 6-6 in December. The Celtics will watch the ball drop ushering in 2014, and with it comes a game-heavy January in which Boston will play 17 games in 29 days. The Celtics play six of their next seven games on the road, starting with Thursday's visit to Chicago. After a brief return home to play the Pelicans on Friday, Boston heads out west on a five-game road trip with stops in Oklahoma City, Denver, Los Angeles (Clippers), Golden State, and Portland. That's seven games in 10 days that ought to test the Celtics after a lightened, home-heavy December slate.