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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Celtics Edition: How Can You Not Love This Team?

The amount of wildly entertaining games that the Celtics have produced in the past few months is out of control. They turned in another instant classic on Friday as Boston (34-27, 22-9) outlasted Atlanta (34-27, 15-19 away) 107-102 in overtime at TD Garden. The win was particularly meaningful too since it pulled the Celtics into a tie with the Hawks for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Boston has won its last five games overall and nine in a row at home. It was their franchise record 11th overtime game of the season and they improved to 7-4 in the extra session(s). Oh and they are 14-4 since Rajon Rondo went down. Go figure. Sure the C's blew a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter but the overriding positives were that they rallied once again and Jason Terry (19 points, 5 assists, 2 steals) had the biggest basket of all-a 3-pointer in overtime that put them ahead for good.

Paul Pierce had another great game with a team-high 27 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Kevin Garnett added 17 points, eight rebounds and two steals while Jeff Green put up 12 points off the bench. Jordan Crawford (9 points) also provided a spark in limited minutes.

Josh Smith had one of his his best performances that I've ever seen with a game-high 32 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Jeff Teague (26 points, 9 assists, 2 steals) and Al Horford (22 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks) continued to torch the Celtics.

Boston led from start to almost finish as Atlanta tied it late then KG missed a jumper and Smith missed a rushed shot at the end of regulation. The Celtics were up 28-26 after the first quarter and 52-47 at halftime. The Hawks outscored the C's 21-20 in an ugly third quarter and then 26-22 in the fourth.

As it has been the case since Rondo got hurt, the Celtics' timely defense was the difference. They shot 5.8% better from the field (51.3-45.5) than the Hawks, made four more free throws (17-13) and had two more steals (9-7). The sneaky stat of the game was points off turnovers where Boston outscored Atlanta 21-9.

Boston improved to 2-1 against Atlanta this season with one more matchup remaining: March 29 back at the Garden. This victory was significant as well since the Celtics have to go to Oklahoma City (46-16, 1st in Northwest Division) on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m., ABC) to face the top team in the Western Conference. It's hard to see Boston winning that one no matter how well they play, the Thunder seem to be at another level than anyone these days (save for the Heat).

UPDATE 3/10: The Celtics signed D.J. White to another 10-day contract today. Shavlik Randolph's 10-day contract ends at midnight today and they're expected to re-sign him as well.

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