Thursday night game round-up: Atlanta advance as Boston struggle to shoot

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The Atlanta Hawks have earned the right to have another crack at the Cleveland Cavaliers after being swept in the Conference Finals last year by defeating the Boston Celtics 104-92 in game six to take the series 4-2.

A semi-final matchup with the top seeds awaits thanks to 17 points and eight rebounds from Paul Millsap and it's sweet revenge for an Atlanta side that fell to Boston in the first round of the postseason in 2012.

Boston are considered to have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA, but injuries to Avery Bradley and ongoing ankle issues to superstar Isaiah Thomas - who still managed to drop 25 points and 10 dimes in the game six loss - ultimately led to their demise.

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The atmosphere inside Boston's home, the TD Garden, was electric from the get-go and the most successful franchise in NBA history knew exactly what was at stake. The home sides early enthusiasm spawned four turnovers from their travelling opponents and it looked like the Hawks might crumble to the pumped up Celtics.

However, on the offensive end the Celtics struggled all night. They could only connect on just four of their first 18 field goal attempts and shot 28 percent in the first half.

Things didn't get any better, either. Boston shot 36 percent from the field for the entire game and went 7-for-32 from the three-point line, whereas the Hawks blew the game open with a 39-point third third quarter in which they shot 74 percent from the field.

That was the primary difference between the sides. Atlanta were making their shots fall and Boston were missing plenty. The visitor's created a lead as wide as 28 points at one stage and during a fourth quarter rally, Brad Stevens' troops would cut that deficit to just 10 points.

However, they never truly threatened Mike Budenholzer's men and the number four seeds now head for the Eastern Conference semi-finals to reignite their rivalry with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Hawks had their best season in franchise hisory last year and grabbed the top seed in the east, blowing past the Brooklyn Nets and the Washington Wizards on their way to a date with the Cavs.

LeBron and co. would scupper a fairytale ending for a Hawks unit budding with talent; can they do the same this year?

All five of the Atlanta starters reached double figures in points, with Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver combining for 25 while Al Horford and Kent Bazemore chipped in 15 each, in addition to Millsap's 17.

Dennis Schroder also continued his reliable form by pitching in 12 points from the pine, too.

Boston will now go away and hope to be major players in free agency this summer, with Kevin Durant's signing not out of the question at all. They have plenty of cap space to play with and an attractive core of young players. Whoever they sign, their young unit is sure to comeback better and challenge in the east next year.

For Atlanta, revenge is on their mind. Game one of their semi-final series with the Cavs will take place next Tuesday on May 3 at the Quicken Loans Arena.

Southeast Division
Eastern Conference
Boston Celtics
Atlantic Division
Paul Millsap
Atlanta Hawks
Isaiah Thomas

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