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Celtics 89, Hawks 88: Better later than never

BOSTON -- The relentless winter weather that has battered this city has routinely snarled commuters in recent days. The Atlanta Hawks found out just how bad things were when one of the team's two buses to Wednesday's game against the Celtics found itself in standstill traffic, causing a late arrival.

Fortunately for Atlanta, Boston evidently was tardy as well. The Hawks scored 16 of the game's first 18 points, building a double-digit lead in less than five minutes while the Celtics started the game 1-for-11 from the floor. Atlanta ultimately built an 18-point lead, and that should have been enough for the top dogs of the Eastern Conference.

But, improbably, it wasn't.

Evan Turner capped Boston's feverish second-half rally with a floater in the lane with 0.2 seconds to play as the Celtics stunned the Hawks 89-88 at TD Garden.

The Celtics initially crawled back into the game a bit (closing within seven a few times in the first half), but Boston shot a meager 24.5 percent (12-for-49) in the first half and was staring at a 15-point deficit at halftime.

Boston saved its most sustained surge for the fourth quarter. The Celtics just kept scrapping, and despite shooting just 32.3 percent overall, managed to pull out the win.

Jared Sullinger, a beast in the paint in the second half, scored a team-high 17 points to go along with 15 rebounds. Marcus Thornton added 14 points off the bench.

For the Hawks, Al Horford registered a team-high 22 points on 11-of-15 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds.

Another nail-biter: Boston has now played 23 games that were within one possession in the final minute (third-most in the league). The Celtics are 9-14 in those games.

Loose balls: Phil Pressey, Gerald Wallace and Shavlik Randolph did not play. ... Thornton started the second half after Marcus Smart endured an up-and-mostly-down first half in which he went 1-for-8 shooting with more turnovers (4) than points (3).

What it means: The Celtics improve to 20-31; the East-leading Hawks fall to 43-11. While Atlanta is sending four players to All-Star weekend, the Celtics will be unrepresented at the festivities (unless you include an injured Kelly Olynyk watching the Rising Stars game). Boston will get nearly a week off before the team reconvenes in Sacramento next Wednesday for a couple days of practice -- and Thursday's trade deadline -- before opening a three-game road trip against the Kings on Feb. 20.