A day after beating the Toronto Raptors for the third straight time this season, the Boston Celtics, playing without Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace, fell to the Atlanta Hawks for the third straight time, 102-96.
Up 55-46 at halftime, the Celtics could not put the Hawks away in the second half, allowing them to score 31 points and trail by only three points going into the fourth quarter. The third quarter was also when Doc Rivers was thrown out of the game for arguing a controversial Glen Davis flagrant foul call. The Celtics were up 10 points at the time of the foul with 6:16 left to play, but the Hawks tied the game up with under a minute to go in the quarter.
Doc Rivers stated that he can't remember ever being that mad during a game, but even so, he should have kept his calm.
"I told the guys after the game, number one, that's always on me," Rivers admitted. "I don't think I should ever get thrown out. So I don't care how bad you think the calls are at the moment. You know, somehow you have to try to ring yourself back in. Honestly, I reacted- I was so shocked at what they were calling- I thought... they were talking about ‘was it a breakaway or not?' The last thing I had in my mind- I didn't even think flagrant."
It seemed that after Doc's ejection, things spiraled downward from there. The momentum and energy in the arena shifted from the Celtics players to the Hawks players and the Celtics found themselves in a dogfight for the remainder of the game.
"It was just a terrible situation, whether it was justified or not," said Ray Allen. "We're up ten and now all of a sudden it seemed like it was a two point game and the ball wasn't even dribbled. I hated watching that- the lack of a good call can result in that much of a difference in a game like that. Up until that point we were playing well and after that the game did change."
Tom Thibodeau took over for Rivers, but failed to make a single substitution for the entire time he coached. Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Glen Davis, and Kendrick Perkins played the remaining 18:16 of the game. Brian Scalabrine, who played arguably his best game of the season, sat for the remainder of the game.
"All competitive athletes want to be out there and play," said Scalabrine. "But we had a lineup that was working. Offensively we were doing great; you know defensively we struggled a little bit."
It looked as though the Celtics ran out of gas towards the end of the game, and the Hawks had too many scoring threats down the stretch. Joe Johnson finished the game with 36 points on 14-25 from the field, and Jamal Crawford added 17 points, all coming in the second half.
"They have two closers now- they have Joe Johnson and now they have (Jamal) Crawford as well," said Rivers. "So they have two closers. And you know that makes it very tough especially if you get into a one point game with them you know its very difficult to get stops against guys who don't need a play to score they just need the ball and go (isolation)."
The Hawks switched to a zone defense in the second half, and overall the team responded exactly how Coach Mike Woodson wanted them to.
"We didn't double as much on the low block when it went in," Woodson said. "We picked and chose what guys we wanted to double. Our switches were a lot better. We weren't leaving the 3-point shooter."
"You know, a tail of two halves," Pierce said. "I mean, we played with a lot more energy, we moved the ball a lot more. When they went to that zone, it kind of- it messed up a little of our motion. I just thought we just didn't execute. I thought the zone really stagnated us. They had a lot of switching, and we didn't go to the second and third options I thought we went more to one pass and isolation and that's not our basketball."
The fact that the Celtics have lose three games to the Hawks may strike fear in some people's eyes, but to be fair, the Celtics haven't exactly been the beacon of good health as of late. It is too early to be scared of any one team, and the Celtics effort tonight without Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace was commendable.
"It shouldn't concern you, it's not like I'm fearing them," said Kendrick Perkins. "Like if we had to get up with them in the playoffs it's not like ‘oh we got the Hawks' or something like that, you know they beat us three times so hats off to them, but I don't fear them I don't think nobody on our team fears them but I think that's the problem. I think they think we're their rivalry but we don't think they're our rivalry."
Perkins makes an interesting point that the Hawks might look at this matchup differently than the Celtics do. The little brother is always trying to compete with the older brother, and in this case, the young Hawks fit that role well against the veteran Celtics. Now that the Hawks have done more than prove themselves a worthy opponent in this league, maybe the Celtics won't be so quick to not deem them a rival.
Paul Pierce is still not all the way back to where he was before he had the right knee infection, and Glen Davis is still not where he wants to be. Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace are both set to return in the next ten days and Marquis Daniels is on track to return around the All-Star break. Let's wait to see how this team performs with the right rotation in there before we hit the panic button.
- The Celtics led for the majority of the game, but couldn't hold on in the end. Hawks have now beaten the Celtics three times this season, twice at home. The Celtics played a great first half of basketball, but once Rivers was ejected in the third, it seemed like they lost their mojo.
- Boston, already without KG, waswithout Rasheed Wallace tonight, who was out with a sore left foot. Brian Scalabrine started in place of Wallace, and played his best game of the season.
- Rondo looked comfortable out there running the offense (26 points, 7 assists). He blew by defenders on the way to the rim all game.
- Doc Rivers was ejected in the third quarter, and assistant coach Armond Hill was also given a technical for arguing a flagrant foul call given to Glen Davis (Brian Scalabrine states that all Armond Hill said was, "He was going up with the ball"). Celtics were up 10 at the time, and ended the quarter up 3. Don't think I've ever seen Doc Rivers that angry before.
- The Celtics had led the entire game until 5.25 left in the fourth quarter.
- Glen Davis provided the only production off the bench tonight.
- Joe Johnson (36 points) was on fire tonight and Al Horford and Josh Smith put up big +'s in the +/- category.
- Jamal Crawford score all his 17 points in the second half, making up for Bibby's poor performance.
- Celtics could only score 16 points in the fourth quarter.
- Hawks took 15 more free throws than the Celtics did, and hit nine more.