Vivlamore reporting from Boston. Here is my updated game story, with quotes, from the Hawks’ overtime loss to the Celtics Wednesday.
BOSTON – The Hawks and Celtics went toe-to-toe for four quarters in playoff atmosphere Wednesday.
The Celtics barely delivered the final blow in overtime.
Boston outscored the Hawks 4-2 in the extra five minutes to record an 88-86 victory at an at-times thunderingly loud TD Garden.
The Celtics had the ball with the two-point lead and Paul Pierce was dribbling out what could have been the final seconds of the game. He made a move to the basket with 10.1 seconds left, but was called for an offensive foul with Josh Smith guarding. On the ensuing possession Smith missed with less than two seconds remaining, and the Celtics escaped.
“I don’t think we were very sharp in overtime,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “We allowed their pressure to speed us up. We had some bad possessions in that overtime. We had some bad possessions going down the stretch of the game.
“We talk about it. When you go into the tail end of close games you have to be able to execute. You have to be able to make plays. We didn’t make the plays.”
The Hawks were led by Jeff Teague with 21 points. Smith added 20 points and 11 rebounds, his 26th double-double of the season. Joe Johnson added 14 points. With the effort, Smith takes over as the team’s leading scorer in per-game average. He is now averaging 18.9 points.
Kevin Garnett, who fouled out, led the Celtics with 22 points. Brandon Bass added 21.
The teams went punch for punch in the final minutes of regulation. Johnson’s basket with 47 seconds left tied the score at 84-84. He answered a Bass score that gave the Celtics a momentary lead.
It was the third tie in the final three minutes of regulation. Teague’s basket with 2:58 remaining knotted the game at 80-80. Smith and Zaza Pachulia each made one of two free throws to counter Garnett’s basket, and the score was again tied with 1:13 remaining. Jannero Pargo of the Hawks missed a shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
The Hawks (34-24) had a three-game win streak snapped. They are now tied with the Magic, Friday’s opponent in Orlando, for fifth in the Eastern Conference. Both teams are 1 1/2 games behind the Pacers, who defeated the Cavaliers on Wednesday. It was the Hawks’ fourth loss in the past 12 games.
The Celtics have clinched the season series with their second win. The final game is April 20 at Philips Arena.
“We just didn’t come up with the big plays that we normally do,” Johnson said. “We had so many chances to win the game or tie it. I missed a couple of easy baskets I normally make. It was a hard-fought game and they came out the better team.”
The Hawks have eight games remaining in the regular season, including six at home. Five are against teams above the .500 mark, including the rematch with the Celtics.
The Hawks were waiting in Boston for the Celtics, who won at the Heat Tuesday.
The Celtics (34-24), who won their fourth straight, hold the fourth spot in the conference with their Atlantic Division lead. Wednesday’s victory was their ninth win in the past 11 games and improved their record to 19-7 since the All-Star break. They are also 12-1 against the Southeast Division this season.
Drew did not want to call the key conference matchup a statement game prior to the contest. Despite the close outcome, both coach and players were not interested in silver linings.
“We are not in to moral victories,” guard Kirk Hinrich said. “We feel like we want to come out and win this game. They played last night. We had some days off. We wanted to come out with a lot of energy. We just had stretches tonight where we didn’t get it done and it cost us.”
One of the key stats for the Hawks in the loss was their 3-point shooting. They made just 2-of-20 attempts.
The Celtics shot a blistering 68.4 percent from the field (13-for-19) in the first quarter. However, they still needed a 10-2 run to end the period just to take a 26-25 lead, their first of the game. The final points came when Bass dunked a Rajon Rondo missed layup.
The Hawks led by as many as nine points in the first quarter thanks to the early shooting of Josh and Teague. They accounted for 19 of the team’s 25 points.
The Celtics could never increase their lead to more than two points, and the Hawks closed the second quarter on a 14-5 run to take a 48-40 halftime lead. The Celtics shooting went cold as they made only 26.3 percent (5-for-19) of their shots. The Hawks also took advantage of some inside matchups and had 28 first-half points in the paint.
By the end of the third quarter the Hawks lead was down to one point, 68-67, setting up the late-game drama.
The Celtics played without one of their Big Three, as Ray Allen missed the game with swelling in his right ankle.