Friday, May 4, 2012
Rajon Rondo & Ray Allen Return, Josh Smith Sits & Celtics Survive OT In Ugly Game 3 Vs. Hawks
It was an extremely ugly contest but the final result is all that matters as the Celts held off the Atlanta Hawks 90-84 in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead.
Boston could never put Atlanta away, until the very end of overtime. The C's led 76-65 midway through the fourth but the Hawks responded with a 15-4 run to tie it at 80. Each team had a chance to go ahead but Willie Green missed a jump shot (i'll always take my chances with him in that spot) and Paul Pierce did his usual isolation play before the buzzer and it didn't go in, like usual. I think it's time to retire that one Doc, I feel like it's successful about 5% of the time, if that.
As predicted by all, Rondo (17 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists, 4 steals) put up the seventh triple-double of his playoff career, 20th overall. Paul Pierce scored 21 points by living at the free throw line (14 for 14) since he was 3 of 12 from the floor. Kevin Garnett had 20 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. Brandon Bass added eight points and five rebounds.
Allen (13 points, 6 rebounds) didn't skip a beat in his first appearance since April 10. With Avery Bradley going down with a separated shoulder, Ray was forced to log 37 minutes but he was able to do it. Mickael Pietrus decided to show up as well, he hit two 3-pointers which in a way turned out to be the difference in the outcome.
It has hard to explain how Atlanta hung tough when you look at numbers like starters Marvin Williams (11 rebounds), Jason Collins and Kirk Hinrich who combined for seven points. Did I mention that Tracy McGrady's (12 points, 9 rebounds) old bones played 41 minutes while some guy that ate Erick Dampier (6 points, 6 rebounds) lumbered up and down the court for 22 minutes?
Joe Johnson had a classic Joe Johnson game, the numbers look good on the surface but not when you delve deeper. I think he's a very good player but not great; this was exactly the time when the Hawks needed him to carry them (see: Pierce in Game 2) but he couldn't do it. He had 29 points and eight rebounds (good) but he shot 11 for 28 from the floor (Melo-esque). Jeff Teague (23 points, 6 assists) continues to play excellent basketball, I haven't seen him like this since he was at Wake Forest.
The tape from this game won't be going to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA anytime soon, that much is for sure. It lacked flow the entire way. Boston trailed 19-17 after the first quarter but led 40-38 at halftime. They each scored 20 in the third quarter then Atlanta edged Boston 22-20 in the fourth to send it to the extra session. The Hawks finally ran out of gas as the C's outscored them 10-4 in overtime.
Boston owned almost every major category. They shot better from the floor (40.5%-37.8%), hit 10 more free throws (22-12), grabbed three more rebounds (51-48), dished out three more assists (18-15) plus they had two more steals (10-8) and four more blocks (8-4). As far as I can tell, the only reason that Atlanta hung around was that they were dominant in the paint (52-36) for some unexplained reason.
Game 4 is Sunday night (7 p.m., CSNE) at the Garden and Smith says he'll play but I guess we'll have to wait and see. I'd like to think that the Celtics would roll but as tonight proved, the Hawks will stubbornly make this a competitive series when it really shouldn't be anywhere near this close. I will say that if Boston wins, I think that they will close it out in five. That's my hope at least.