If your a fan of either the Boston Celtics or Atlanta Hawks then you probably have nubs for fingers and maybe even toes right now.
Boston narrowly escaped a prideful Atlanta team 83-80 to win their first round series 4-2. The Celtics scraped together a win behind grit, hustle, good old fashioned luck, and a vintage Kevin Garnett performance.
KG might have played his best game in a Celtics uniform ripping the Hawks for 28 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks, 3 steals, and 2 assists.
Just as the Hawks’ Al Horford stole the show in Game 5, Garnett did everything but sell popcorn to propel Boston to the series clinching win in Game 6.
The final 6 minutes of this game produced some of the more perplexing plays you will ever see in a playoff game. The Hawks, the Celtics and even the refs turned the final minutes into a tragedy of confusion.
With Boston up 74-65 an exhausted Garnett requested to exit the game for the Celtics. Doc Rivers had no choice but to oblige and the Hawks, particularly Horford, salivated.
Horford would score 11 of his 15 points in the final frame and lead the Hawks charge to take a 79-76 lead. Josh Smith would then karate chop the headband off of a one-legged Paul Pierce as he made a lay up that brought the Celtics within one at 79-78. The basket for Pierce (18 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds) was redemption for two wild back-footed passes he made earlier in the quarter that helped Atlanta take the lead in the first place.
On the next Boston possession, Rondo (14 points and 8 assists) would travel as he jumped in the air 3 feet from the basket and decided against taking a contested shot. I guess he figured traveling was better.
Joe Johnson (17 points) would miss a jumper giving Boston another chance to take the lead. KG would miss a fade away badly but the new Celtics minutes gobbler, Ryan Hollins, saved the day with an offensive rebound. On the ensuing possession KG would make good on his previous miss with a turnaround jumper that gave Boston the lead for good.
With the Hawks down 80-79, Josh Smith heaved a 22 footer that clanked off the rim with Brandon Bass defending him. As a basketball fan I cringed at the shot selection of Smith. He had been driving past Bass like a kid running through the door to recess all night long. Why he shot a jumper with Bass on him I don’t know. (As a Celtics fan I applaud the decision)
Ray Allen would be fouled with 9.3 seconds left and somehow he only made one of two giving Boston a 81-79 lead.
Marquis Daniels was inserted for Boston’s defense and promptly committed two fouls in 7 seconds. Defensive brilliance at its best. The first foul came on an inbounds play for Atlanta which should have given the Hawks two shots and the ball. Fortunately the refs ruled that the foul occurred at the same time as the pass was being made. A LUCKY break for Boston that forced the Hawks to inbound the ball again.
Daniels would then end up on the much larger Horford on the next play. Atlanta astutely lobbed a pass towards Horford as he faded to the basket. Daniels would have to foul sending Horford to the line with just 2.3 seconds left.
Horford missed the first free throw and instead of missing the second intentionally to give his team an opportunity to tie, he made it. Another lucky break for Boston.
Pierce was then fouled and made two free throws to push the lead to 3.
With 1.3 seconds left Jeff Teague was unable to get off a half-court three as Rondo bull rushed him inexplicably.
Game, set and series.
For the second game in a row Boston had multiple miscues in the final minutes which seemed to stem more from a mental standpoint than anything else.
Boston suffered multiple droughts on offense and guys like Keyon Dooling and even Ray Allen looked scared to shoot. Late game execution is something the Celtics usually thrive in, they were fortunate that the Hawks are exactly who we thought they are…the same old Hawks.
On the flip side everybody on the team is dealing with some sort of injury and the fact the Celtics were able to overcome the injuries and mental lapses says volumes about the character of the team.
On to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals vs. the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night.
Preview coming soon!
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com