It was the type of game that on January 11th or February 11th the Celtics would have undoubtedly lost.
But not April 11th.
Not with the way the team has somehow - someway - turned its season around 180-degrees since late February when they went into the All-Star Break losers of five in a row and seven of eight.
Once forgotten, and rightfully so, the Celtics are now *gasp* contenders. Make no mistake about it: no team wants to mess with them. No team wants to get nasty.
And why would they? Recent wins over the Heat (twice), 76ers, Pacers, and Hawks have teams taking notice. A one-point loss to one of the best teams in the NBA, the Spurs, is nothing to be ashamed of and a poorly played game in Chicago (followed by a Doc Rivers smack-down) may turn out to be a good thing.
Back-to-backs. Road. It hasn't mattered. They're 19-7 post-All Star break. That includes an eight-game west coast trip, games without Ray Allen, and a bench also known as the Greg Stiemsma pu pu platter.
All of a sudden, three wins in three nights seems realistic (kind of).
So how then could you sum up the 2012 Celtics? Resilient.
"This team has resolve, they do," Doc Rivers said after the Celtics' 88-86 overtime win over the Hawks. "Listen, on paper, all that stuff, we know who we are. But they figure it out, they like each other, and I think that allows us to win games that on certain nights we shouldn't win. I really believe it. I think this team has a resolve about them that allows them to stay in games that I think other teams would let go on the road."
It wasn't long ago that the Celtics were one of those "other teams" - a team that looked to be on its last beat up leg, limping to the offseason, that is if they could get there before Danny Ainge hit the big red button on his desk that says "BLOW UP".
He didn't (and really, everyone needs to thank him for that). He had no choice but to believe in the team he assembled, and with Doc Rivers almost publicly pleading for him to keep the family together, here we are.
"We have great character," Rivers said. "Tough-minded group, they really are. You can see they wanted to win that game [against Atlanta] so bad."
That attitude prompted Rivers to declare this Celtics team the most resilient one he's coached since coming over from Orlando in 2004. The real question is why? What happened? As well as the Celtics are playing, Rivers may have unveiled something they're now "suffering" from - Napoleon complex.
"This team, they're just tough and I think - I don't know why. I wish I actually knew," Rivers said. "There's always theories. Once we went small, it was like, ‘Guys, this is who we are. And this is how we have to play the rest of the year.' And I think they bought into it."
NBA players suffering from Napoleon complex. Who'd a thunk it? But there go the "small" Celtics overcompensating for their size and continuing on their conquest.
With just eight games left before the postseason, the C's are rounding into form. Depth will be an issue going forward as it has been all season, but all it's seemed to do is make the tight-knit circle closer and produce wins.
"I think it's because we know that we need to come into every game and fight," Avery Bradley told CelticsBlog as to the team's success. "We don't want to lose, we want to leave everything out on the floor. And I think that's what we've been doing lately ... And not to say we haven't been doing that in the past but even more so now because we're clicking as a team. So we don't want to give ourselves excuses or have reasons why we should lose games."
Bradley, who also said that everybody on the team now accepts and understands their roles, goes even a little deeper.
"Like I said, we play for each other. We just play as hard as we can and we want to be able to look at each other in the eyes after the game and let each other know that we gave everything we got."
With future Hall of Famers like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen holding teammates accountable while leading by example, there's an apparent trickle-down effect that rounds out the rest of the rotation. Garnett, in particular, has re-elevated his game to a level we didn't think he had in him anymore. The team has followed suit, and is now finally seeing results.
"It shows that we're getting better," Garnett said. "It shows that we're starting to apply the things that we've learned. Carrying over the things that we talk about. This team right now, we're playing very solid basketball."
The Hawks found that out the hard way, and it will cost them home-court advantage to the Celtics in the playoffs if things stay the way they are.
"It was a nasty junked-up game," Rivers said Wednesday night. "And we won."
The former is certainly no surprise. And now, neither is the latter.