‘Tough pill to swallow’ for Celtics as Hawks overturn 30-point lead for stunning win

Jayson Tatum described the Boston Celtics’ 120-118 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks as a “tough pill to swallow” after the NBA leaders squandered a 30-point lead in a stunning collapse at State Farm Arena.

Boston approached Monday’s game having won nine straight and looked set for a 10th consecutive victory when Al Horford’s 3-pointer put them 68-38 up near the end of the first half.

However, Atlanta roared back in the second half to clinch a famous win despite the absence of injured All-Star Trae Young, with De’Andre Hunter leading six Hawks in double figures with 24 points.

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Hunter capped his performance by sinking the decisive 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds remaining, sealing the Hawks’ biggest comeback win since the NBA began keeping detailed play-by-plays in 1997-98.

It was also the first 30-point comeback win by any team since the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Washington Wizards 116-115 from 35 points down in 2021-22.

Celtics star Tatum, who led the visitors with 37 points, said: “We let our foot off the gas in the second half.

“They got into a great rhythm. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”

The Hawks – who occupy the Eastern Conference’s final Play-In spot – now sit at 32-39, and head coach Quin Snyder praised his players for their never-say-die attitude after the game.

“Any time you’re down that much, you have to have something out of the ordinary to get back in the game,” Snyder said.

“When you have a group of people you know who are behind you thick or thin, rain or shine – and there was a lot of rain early – they were a big part of helping the sun come out tonight.”

The Hawks host the Portland Trail Blazers in their next game on Wednesday, before welcoming the 57-15 Celtics back to State Farm Arena for a rematch on Thursday.

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