BOSTON — Jerryd Bayless’ first start for the Celtics may have cleared some space for him in the lineup.
Boston’s backup guard scored 21 of his season-high 29 points in the second half and the Celtics snapped a five-game losing streak with a 115-104 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
“We think we have improved as a team and we showed that tonight,” said Bayless, who came to Boston in a trade with Memphis on Jan. 6. “We had a day off to clear our minds from the road trip and everybody came in and played well today.”
The Celtics were coming off a four-game Western Conference road trip that extended their losing streak to five straight. After falling behind by 15 early, a sixth appeared likely before the Celtics started moving the ball around and capitalizing on Atlanta’s small frontcourt.
Bayless scored nine in the fourth quarter and finished the game 12 for 21 from the field, including 5 of 8 3-pointers.
“Everybody’s been in those moments where the basket looks bigger than other days. And you get into a little bit of a rhythm. He got into that tonight, and the goal is to do that as consistently as possible,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “But he’s done a lot of good things for us since he’s been here.”
Guard Rajon Rondo had 22 points and 11 assists and forward Jeff Green scored 17 as Celtics topped 100 points for the first time since beating Milwaukee 102-86, which was also Boston’s last victory. The Celtics held Atlanta to one rebound in the fourth quarter while pulling down 14.
Forward Brandon Bass added 14 points and center Kris Humphries scored 10 as all five Boston starters scored in double figures. Forward Gerald Wallace added 12 points and a team-high 10 rebounds off the bench.
Bass and Green pulled down eight boards apiece for Boston, which outrebounded Atlanta 46-29.
Rondo played despite skipping Boston’s loss at Sacramento last week in the second of back-to-back nights for the Celtics.
Rondo, the team’s captain, declined to say what caused him to not be with the team against the Kings.
“Nobody knows the story. You guys keep making up every story you guys possibly can,” he said. “It’s just my business. It’s not yours.”
Point guard Jeff Teague scored 26 points to lead Atlanta, which has lost 10 of 11 and is 1-5 since the All-Star break and clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference at 26-31.
“We’ve got to find whatever we can do, whatever we need to do defensively, offensively — whatever — just to get the win,” Teague said. “I don’t care about scoring points or any of that stuff. I just want to win.”
Forward DeMarre Carroll had 24 points, guard Kyle Korver scored 17 and forward Elton Brand finished with 10 points and seven rebounds for Atlanta.
Both teams were shorthanded because of injuries. Boston used just nine players and Atlanta dressed only 10, but the Celtics seemed to have more depth at the end as the Hawks tried to rally.
“We couldn’t match their physicality. That’s what hurt us. They pounded us on the glass,” Brand said.
The Celtics led 81-79 entering the fourth period and opened it with a basket by Humphries and a 3-pointer by Bayless to pull ahead 86-79.
The Hawks pulled within 92-91 when Mack made 1 of 2 foul shots with 6:43 remaining. Atlanta’s struggles from the line continued as the Hawks tried unsuccessfully to catch up to Boston down the stretch.
Carroll also went 1-for-2 from the line with 4:49 left and Lou Williams missed on an opportunity for a four-point play after drawing a foul while making a 3-pointer with 3:31 left and Boston leading 103-97.
The Celtics continued pulling away late as Bayless added a jumper to extend the lead to 113-102 with 50 seconds left.
“Jerryd’s a scorer. He doesn’t really need me out there to make plays. He made a lot of plays for himself,” Rondo said.
The Hawks opened the game on an 11-2 run and led 23-8 before Boston rallied at the end of the period and trailed 27-25 entering the second quarter. The Celtics shot 56.5 percent in the second quarter and led 58-56 at halftime.
NOTES: Olympic giant slalom gold medalist Ted Ligety received a standing ovation and chants of “U-S-A!” when he was introduced in the first quarter. … Hawks F Kyle Korver extended his streak of games making a 3-pointer to 126 by going 2-for-2 from beyond the arc in the first quarter. … Boston C Kelly Olynyk (sprained toe), F Jared Sullinger (concussion) and G Avery Bradley (ankle) all sat out for the Celtics. … F Paul Millsap did not travel with the Hawks because of a right knee contusion.
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