Kemba Walker returned from a one-game sabbatical to score a season-high 28 points and lead the Boston Celtics to a 121-109 win over the visiting Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
Walker sat out the first of the two-game series against Atlanta for load management of his left knee, a game the Celtics lost. He scored 20 of his points in the first half on Friday as Boston built a 25-point halftime lead.
Walker was a season-high 10-for-16 from the floor, including five 3-pointers, and added five rebounds, six assists and three steals. He even blocked a shot.
The Celtics led by as many as 27 points (96-69) in the second half but had to withstand an Atlanta comeback that trimmed the lead to nine points with just under five minutes left.
Boston got 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists from Jayson Tatum and 17 points each from Tristan Thompson and Jaylen Brown.
Daniel Thies returned after missing two games with a right index finger sprain and had 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Trae Young led Atlanta with 31 points and 11 assists. Young scored 40 against Boston on Wednesday. Clint Capela had 24 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots on Friday, and reserve Solomon Hill added 12 points.
Boston has won two of its last three. Atlanta has lost five of its last six games.
The Celtics bolted to a 33-22 lead after one quarter and took a 66-41 advantage into halftime. Boston led 98-73 after three quarters.
The Hawks opened the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run, generated primarily by its reserves, and got to within 13 points on Hill's 3-pointer with 7:44 left to make it 103-90.
The Celtics called timeout and reinserted their first unit to help withstand the unlikely comeback. But Atlanta continued to peck away, and Young's 3-pointer cut the lead to nine points with 4:50 remaining.
Both teams play again on Sunday. Atlanta returns home to host the Denver Nuggets, while Boston travels to New Orleans.