It was tough, it was gritty, it was exciting, it was disappointing, but it was playoff basketball. Tonight the Celtics ended any dreams the Hawks had of advancing to the 2nd round as Boston will advance and face the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals. The hawks fought valliantly and despite the big leads and defecits, this was a one possession game, and one possession series as several games have been decided by one possesion throughout this series. Let’s take a look at what we learned in tonight’s series clinching win against the Hawks.
1) The Celtics may be old, but they’re still experienced and effective. They got vintage performances from Garnett and Pierce tonight who contributed beyond just the typical rebounds points and assists.
2) The Celtics are master mainupaltors, able to bait many teams into frustaration technicals and charging calls, as the Celtics used their experience to their advantage in the win.
3) The Celtics are still injured as Pierce, Ray Allen and Greg Stiemsma were all visibly limited with their injuries but still played and contributed despite it.
4) The Celtics are utilizing their bench going 10 deep with their Rotation to help their stars get some rest for their injuries without sacraficing too much of a lead. It may hurt the Celtics that Garnett and Pierce have been playing heavy minutes this series.
5) The bench has not been producing well for the Celtics despite playing a good amount of minutes. The increased minutes isn’t leading to valuable contributions and this could be a concern for the Celtics going forward facing the 76ers.
Here’s how the Celtics won the game, with a quarter by quarter breakdown.
In the 1st quarter the Celtics went to Garnett and Pierce early with Rondo trying to facilitate both. The Celtics also tried to get Ray Allen involved and he made his only shot in the 1st quarter, going 1 for 7 for the rest of the game. The increased defensive pressure with Horford and Smith in the lineup affected Rondo, Bass, and Bradley’s ability to score in the game so the C’s relied on Garnett and Pierce to keep them throughout the game. The Hawks took the lead early going on short runs to keep them ahead while the Celtics would rally and stay afloat and competitive with their trusted scorers and ability to score from the high post and off of drives. Celtics trailed 23-20 at the end of the first but getting a relatively balanced effort despite Pierce scoring 7 in a row.
In the 2nd quarter, the Celtics cranked up their defense picking off bad passes and baiting the Hawks into several blocking, charging, and loose ball fouls forcing the Hawks to switch out some of their players into frustaration fouls and forced shots. Jeff Teague was especially frustarated and thrown off his game with Rondo and Garnett hounding him into several bad passes and rushed shots trying to get back at the Celtics. It backfired as the Celtics capialized on it going on a 16-0 run in a span of 4 minutes. Garnett scored 10 points in the quarter, while Rondo and Pierce combined for 13 points and the Celtics finished up 47-41. Garnett finished the half with 3 steals and one block as well with 7 rebounds and 1 assist along with 13 points to end the half.
After halftime the Hawks came back energized and were active offensively and defensively chipping away at the Celtics lead. The Celtics then used their experience to bait the Hawks into many frustaration fouls with Rondo baiting Teague into a technical and Pierce baiting 3 Hawks into 3 fouls in a span of 10 seconds, while Garnett drew 2 fouls in a span of 30 seconds. That helped deflate the momentum the Hawks were building and allowed the Celtics to maintain their lead, this time from their defense and balanced scoring. Pierce became more active this quarter as well taking on a playmaking role getting 3 assists in the quarter and facilitating several other baskets with Garnett as well playing out of the high post. Garnett’s defense also set the tone as he blocked two shots and kept up his strong play throughout the quarter altering several other shots helping the Celtics maintain a lead of 67-63 since trailing 31-30 halfway through the 2nd quarter.
In the 4th the Celtics lost their momentum as the Hawks opened up with a quick basket making it a 2 pt game, before Garnett scored 6 points during a 9-0 run that put the Celtics ahead comfortable 74-65. The Hawks then proved the saying that basketball is a game of runs, as they went on their own run, going 14-2 and gaining the lead 79-76 with 2:30 minutes left to play. The game was then decided on tough defense as the Celtics grinded it out, getting some clutch baskets by Ray Allen, Garnett and Pierce to stop an exciting back and forth game that culminated when Horford got fouled, and missed a game tying free throw. Allen also missed a free throw but Pierce iced the game with 2 late free throws after Horford missed and Rondo played great defensive to prevent the Hawks from getting a 3pter off in time, allowing the Celtics to win 83-80
Highlight plays of the game: Any of Garnett’s 5 blocks in the game. All came at opportune times and were emphatic rejections that kept theBoston crowd on their feet in this back and forth game. Also Josh Smith barreled down the lane for an emphatic dunk to energize the Hawks faithful, but it wasn’t enough to help them win.
What this means going forward: Hollins is getting more time than Greg Stiemsma which means Doc still think’s he’s limited in his playtime. Stiemsma is gonna have a big role in the next series against Philadelphia as they are young, athletic and relatively injury free. The benefit of home court advantage will alow the Celtics an extra day of rest until they play again. Stiemsma will be relied upon to help shut down Spencer Hawes and Thad Young as well off the bench. Igoudala’s injury is good news for Pierce as he also injured, along with Bradley and Allen so the Celtics need to rest up as much as they can to swing the momentum in their favour against the gritty athletic 76ers. Scoring shouldn’t nessecarily be difficult for the Celtics, but keeping the 76ers off the boards and preventing them picking off passes in the passing lanes and scoring in the post will be a priority for them. Looking forward, rest, good health, taking care of the ball, and rebounding are the only things preventing the Celtics from advancing into the Eastern Conference Finals.
Interesting notes of the night: Ray Allen, the NBA’s all-time leader in 3pters made, went 1-7 on 3′s, Rondo broke his double digit assist streak which started on March 9th. Doc is 3rd all time with 50 playoff victories for the Celtics, trailing Red Auerbach (90) and KC Jones (65). This is the third time since Garnett got 5 blocks in a game with the Celtics. Tracy McGrady still doesn’t advance past the first round of the playoffs. Kevin Garnett also addressed Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. who said “They are old. I know what happens when you play basketball: Old guys foul. Garnett is the dirtiest guy in the league.” which Garnett responded with: “I just found that comment to be a little rude and a little out of hand, and I wanted to address it. Just because you’ve got a lot of money doesn’t mean you can open your mouth.” The Hawks are 1-11 all time against the Celtics in playoff series, winning in 1958. Last time the Celtic played the Hawks in the playoffs was in 2008, when Boston won the championship.
Notable stats of the night:
Rondo 14 points, 8 assists, 5 turnovers, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
Pierce 18 points, 7 assists, 3 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Garnett 28 points, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 14 rebounds, 3 steals, 5 blocks
Josh Smith 18 points, 4 assists, 1 tunover, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Al Horford 15 points, 4 assists, 7 turnovers, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
Marvin Williams 16 points, 3 assists, 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
Joe Johnson 17 points. 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 rebound, 1 steal
About the Author
Written by Andrew Mossad
Avid basketball player/fan out of Ontario with a strong preference on matchup mismatches and good basketball over highlights.