Boston came out of half time with a 45-39 lead. Then the sky caved in.
They were holding the Hawks to 42% shooting, while shooting 46% themselves and were 7 of 12 from the three point line. It was time to extol the positives of having Rasheed Wallace on the team with Kevin Garnett out. Wrap this one up, boys and put a bow on it.
But hold on. The Celtics rarely make things easy this year.
The Hawks went on a 20-6 rampage to start the 3rd quarter. From there, Jamal Crawford did what he does, and that is score the ball, with 14 fourth quarter points on 5 of 6 shooting to hold off a Celtic come back that got them to within 2 points on a Paul Pierce jump shot, at 76-78, with 5:26 left.
If this team has exhibited one thing this season, it is an inability or unwillingness to play 48 minutes of hard basketball. The Hawks simply out played and athletic-ed (new word) the Celtics, particularly in that 3rd quarter.
Atlanta came out and went on a 20-6 run to obliterate both the lead and the Celtics chances of getting revenge for an eye opening loss in Boston to these same Hawks. They had beaten Atlanta 9 times in a row there. The Celtics swept the season series last year. After seeing this game, you get the feeling that the Celtics still do not take this team seriously.
Atlanta outscored them 29-15 in the third. It was a well rounded effort all night by the Hawks with all 5 starters in double figures when the quarter ended. Bibby was active with deflections and Josh Smith had a big time block on a Perkins jam attempt. When it was over, no Hawk scored 20 but Jamal Crawford came out of nowhere in the 4th period to lead the team with 18 points. That included a ridiculous, quick recovery, rain making three pointer from the corner with a Perkins foul added in for good measure.
The Celtics shot 5 of 22 in the third and finished the game at .408.
Rajon Rondo had 10 assists, 5 rebounds and 11 points, including 2 for 2 on three point shots, but wasn’t any where near the factor he was against Miami.
Now the Celtics are down 0-2 to a conference rival that looked ‘not quite ready for prime time’ by losing 4 straight, including 2 in a row to Cleveland, after blowing leads going into the 4th quarter both times. After a ‘players only’ team meeting, the Hawks beat the Nets to stop the bleeding, but Boston made them better in a hurry.
Paul Pierce led Boston with 21 points after scoring just 5 first half points. Paul scored 9 fourth quarter points, but missed his last two shots and made a bad turnover on a pass in the last minute and a half. He finished shooting 8 of 16 with 2 three pointers.
With Marquis Daniels still out and Tony Allen out with illness, Pierce had 6 steals but 4 turnovers and no assists in 40 plus minutes.
Ray Allen added 15 points with 3 of 7 from downtown, but only 5 of 16 overall
Rasheed Wallace fell in love with the three pointer again, but shot just 1 for 8 from downtown, including 0-5 in the second half, scoring 11 points on 5 of 15 for the game, grabbing just 3 rebounds, and dishing 4 assists in almost 39 minutes.
More important, Wallace was late reacting on a number of help situations around the basket, resulting in easy hoops for Atlanta bigs. It wasn’t until the 4th period that Rasheed seemed to get interested in tighter defense.
Kendrick led the team with 14 rebounds (4 offensive), adding 15 points, a block, and 3 turnovers. Kendrick got into an energetic discussion with Josh Smith at one point, but managed to avoid another technical foul.
Two things stick out. The starters were clearly outplayed by the Hawks. Yet, it the bench scoring, or lack of it, that made the difference. Eddie House added 7 points, Glen Davis 4, and Shelden Williams a single point to the Hawks 24, led by Crawford’s 18.
With Garnett, Tony Allen and Daniels out, Doc played three starters 40 plus minutes and Wallace and Perkins around 38 minutes.
Though there were a few calls that the Celtics didn’t get, including a Bibby knock away from Rondo, the Celtics had only 14 fouls called on them on the night. I have to go back and check but that might be a season low.
Neither team got a lot done in the paint as Boston scored 30 to the Hawks 36 points in the paint.
Next up are the Raptors in Toronto on Sunday.