Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Celtics Let One Slip Away, Can't Close Out The Hawks In Merely 5 Games
Rajon Rondo (13 points, 12 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals) stole Marvin Williams's (15 points) awful inbounds pass with nine seconds left in regulation. The Celtics were down only one point but they didn't have a timeout remaining. Rondo had to freestyle and that wasn't a good thing as he dribbled into a corner and threw it away as time expired, Atlanta survived 87-86 at Philips Arena in a game that neither team seemed that that intent on capturing.
Boston still leads the series 3-2 so they have potentially two more cracks at knocking out the Hawks but this was frustrating since they had it right there for the taking. The Celtics were up 28-18 in the second quarter but it was tied 40-40 at halftime thanks to Rondo's buzzer-beater 3-pointer. I'll give props to the Hawks, a team that is usually so mentally fragile responded in the second half and led 66-56 late in the third quarter before an 8-0 Celtics run cut it to 66-64 after three.
Paul Pierce (16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) was awful all night but he hit a clutch 3-pointer to bring Boston within one (87-86) with 50 seconds left. However he missed a driving layup and after forcing a miss on Jeff Teague's (16 points, 5 assists) 3, Pierce had another chance to be a hero but he missed a mid-range jumper that was an airball.
Al Horford (19 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 steals) was the unexpected star of the victory. It felt like he made every big shot in the second half, his baseline jumper was on fire. Not bad for a guy that wasn't expected to play in the series. Joe Johnson (15 points) started out slow as usual but he hit some timely baskets. Josh Smith's (13 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists) also played very well.
Kevin Garnett had 16 points and seven rebounds for the C's while Brandon Bass (14 points, 7 rebounds) had his best game of the series thus far. Avery Bradley was limited to 18 minutes, this was a Ray Allen type of game and he responded with 15 points including a dagger 3 late in the fourth quarter.
The biggest surprise for Boston was that Ryan Hollins (5 points, 4 rebounds) played 19 minutes while Greg Stiemsma (4 minutes) mostly watched from the bench. That may sound crazy but Hollins actually injected the Celtics with some energy and he had two monster alley-oops from Rondo.
There is absolutely no reason to panic, yet. The C's won their previous two home games at TD Garden in this series and I expect that they'll get it done in Game 6 (8:00 p.m., CSNE) on Thursday night. Even though the Bulls managed to stay alive tonight with a win against the Sixers, it would have been nice for the Celts to earn some extra rest for the next series. First things first, it's time to get rid of the Hawks.