Throw Brian Scalabrine’s great performance out the window. Throw Rajon Rondo’s out there, too. Paul Pierce? Ditto.
Go figure. This was a game that I was going to save time by writing up my notes as I watched throughout the first half. Little did I know that the entire complexion of the game would change drastically midway through the 3rd period.
The Hawks scored a real victory. Did they get a moral victory as well? Rasheed Wallace joined Kevin Garnett with a mild injury that Coach Rivers decided would keep Wallace sidelined.
Joe Johnson played a masterful game, scoring 36 points, a career high against the Celtics. For the second straight time, Jamal Crawford was a huge factor for the Hawks, scoring the last 6 points of the game to garner the third straight win for the Hawks against the Celtics, and finished with 17 points off the bench.
But let me state right now, this could be the most misleading or misinterpreted win/loss of the ongoing relationship between these two teams.
What was supposed to be just another regular season game had already assumed a bit more significance because the Hawks had won the previous two times they played.
You could have bet the house that the Celtics would win this game.
Glen and Glenn
I can throw away my notes away because they really didn’t matter after Glen Davis was called for a controversial flagrant foul on Marvin Williams on a drive midway through the third period. On an angle you would see from the Celtic bench, it looked like little contact other than going for the ball. From another camera angle, you could see Glen’s other hand also on top Williams, helping push him down.
Earlier in the game, Zaza Pachulia was called for a flagrant foul for whacking Perkins in the head while attempting to stop a lay up.
The Celtics were already finding it hard to get meaningful fouls called, while the Hawks didn’t seem to be having the same problem. Taking into account that Heinsohn is a true homer, he called this one of the worst officiated games of the year. It did appear that some obvious fouls weren’t called, and, inconsistent with the theory of hometown calls, the foul total was in favor of the Hawks.
One example was a great defensive play by Shelden Williams on…who else… Marvin Williams on a drive. He got all ball but was called for a foul. But those kinds of calls happen all the time. Still it would have been nice to see Shelden get rewarded for a great play. There were others with Ray and Paul, but again, you have to play through that.
To the Celtics, and their fans in the Garden, it was flagrantly foul officiating.
By half time, the free throw attempts were 13–6 in Atlanta’s favor. It wasn’t because the Cs were shooting jump shots either.
Pent up Celtic emotions came boiling out for Doc Rivers and normally staid, composed Armond Hill.
The Celtics were up 67-57 and in control of the game when the flagrant foul unleashed Doc’s outburst, Hill’s follow up T, and the resulting Hawk parade to the foul line changed everything. After shooting 5 consecutive foul shots due to 3 technical fouls and 2 more for a shooting foul, momentum began to shift.
It also turned into a playoff atmosphere, because everyone in Celticland wanted to win this game.
Fans mockingly cheered when a foul was finally called on Mo Evans guarding Paul Pierce.
Thibodeau’s Strategy Could Be Questioned
Associate Head Coach Tom Thibodeau took over after Rivers was thrown out.
But one could wonder if Tom Thibodeau coached from pressure or from best logic. He played the entire starting five, with only Glen Davis replacing Brain Scalabrine, for the entire 4th quarter. Brian Scalabrine, Tony Allen, Eddie House, and Shelden Williams would not be seen beyond the 3rd quarter.
On the second night of back-to-back games, an already sore Rajon Rondo played 45 minutes and Paul, Ray, Kendrick played 42 plus minutes. Boston scored 16 points in the 4th quarter, while shooting 5 for 16.
The Hawks made 4 of the 5 foul shots making it 67-61, and they maintained the ball. The undermanned Celtics slowly lost the lead. Crawford tied it up at 75 with 1:22 left in the third.
The Celtics regained a small lead and maintained it until Joe Johnson made a tough fade away jumper with 7:27 left in the game. The game was back and forth after that, with Johnson hitting multiple big shots and scoring twelve 4th quarter points. His last three shots tied or regained the lead for the Hawks.
Ray Allen hit a big three point shot to regain the lead at 91-89. Rajon Rondo hit a lay up to regain the lead at 93-92. Down 93-96, Davis made a driving lay up, was fouled and hit the free throw to tie at 96.
After that Jamal Crawford took over for the win.
In defense of Thibodeau, Glen Davis had a solid 4th quarter offensively, scoring 9 of the Celtics’ 16 points on 2 of 4 shooting while hitting 5 straight clutch free throws.
It was unusual that Paul Pierce played the entire quarter, but took just two shots in such a crucial situation, scoring zero.
The Celtics had been playing an inspired game with Rasheed Wallace sitting this one out with a sore foot. Brian Scalabrine got the starting nod and ended his shooting slump, making three of three from the arc in the first half. More important, he played really solid defense on the high flying Josh Smith, holding him to 4 first half points on 2-6 shooting.
Rajon Rondo was putting on a magnificent performance, scoring almost at will. Rajon came out super aggressive, blowing by Mike Bibby whenever he desired. He conducted a lay up drill and hit another three point shot and a jumper. He was also drawing the defense and kicking it out…textbook fashion. Rondo finished the first half with 17 points on 8 of 12 shooting with 6 assists.
Rajon finished the game as the Celtic scoring leader with 26 points on 12 of 20 shooting, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, was blocked four times, and had three turnovers
Paul Pierce picked it up late in the first half with a couple of three pointers and rebounded and passed well, going into half time with 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Paul finished with 19 points, 3 of 6 from the arc, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 turnovers.
Ray Allen finished with 16 points on 5 of 10 shooting, 3 of 5 from the arc, 5 rebounds, three assists and two turnovers.
Glen Davis was more focused and aggressive in this game, going 2-2 in the first half. He grabbed just 4 rebounds in 27 minutes. Glen played together with Shelden Williams in the first half and they were +5 together. Williams hit a lay up off a Pierce pass and generally played well against his old team.
The main thing to take from this game is not that the Celtics are in trouble against the Hawks. It is that it took such a game changing incident and the lack of two key Celtic bigs for the Hawks to win this game.
No doubt the Hawks are a young, talented, athletic team. The kind that gives the Celtics trouble. I know they beat a healthy Celtic team in Boston in November. They have now beat them three straight times.
But they are not a true rival until they can beat a fully healthy Celtic team that is concentrating fully on winning. I think the Celtics feel the same way.
The problem at the moment is that the Celtics are rarely fully healthy and rarely fully concentrated on winning.
It was an interesting game as it was. It would have been even more interesting and a different game if Wallace had played.
Kendrick Perkins had 11 points, 9 rebounds and 6 turnovers. Three were traveling calls.
Brian Scalabrine played, by far, his best game of the year.