Atlanta Hawks: Celtics 90, Hawks 84 (OT)
Boston–The Hawks, against all odds and in spite of Larry Drew’s weird substitution patterns, had a chance to beat the Celtics and regain control of this series. This was because they were intense on defense and the boards, got production from unlikely sources and Joe Johnson made big shots. It also helped that the Celtics sputtered on their possessions late in regulation.
- The Hawks lost in overtime and one way to look at is they nearly won without their top three bigs. Heck, for at least one night you can’t even knock them for not having enough quality bigs (who does, really?) after Erick Dampier had his best game of the season.
- “We feel like we have as good a chance to win this series as they do,” Joe Johnson said. “Unfortunately we have three key bigs that are not able to play. That is a minor setback. We still had a great chance to come out and win this game. We still had a chance in the fourth quarter.”
- Another way to look at it, though, is that three games have come down to the final minutes and the Celtics won two of them. They didn’t do it with style, but they did it.
- “I think [the difference] is down the stretch,” Willie Green said. “Offensively, they execute in the last six minutes of the game. The games they won, we were winning they had control of the game and then the last six to eight minutes of fourth quarter and those guys know how to turn it up. They push us out, make us to take tough shots, force the catches way out until we can’t get in our offense. We’ve just got to do a better job of spacing and attacking these guys.”
- I heard cries of “same old Hawks” after they lost Game 2 and I didn’t buy it, at least not if that implies these Hawks are like that group that laid down for the Magic two years ago. Competing hard hasn’t often been the problem for the Hawks this season and it’s the same in this series.
- “I give them a lot of credit,” Doc Rivers said. “They are undermanned. . . . They fought. I thought early on they were playing free, loose and also with more intensity.”
- But if by “same old Hawks” critics mean they still can’t find a way to finish off quality opponents in the postseason, then there’s no denying that even considering the injury-related holes in their roster.
- “We had them where we wanted them in the fourth quarter,” Jeff Teague said. “We had a chance to win it. That’s all we can ask on the road. In the overtime they made plays and we ran out of gas a little bit after fighting back in that fourth quarter. We get another crack at them and we have to be better.”
- It’s not as if the Hawks had only terrible execution at the end of regulation. I thought there were some good possessions during their comeback. . . .
- Jeff Teague got into the lane and kicked out to Tracy McGrady, who found Willie Green in the corner for a 3. That’s good.
- Joe Johnson made a step-back J on a quick isolation move against Mickael Pietrus. After Paul Pierce inexplicably shoved Jason Collins out on the perimeter, Joe pulled up for a 3 over Pietrus before help could arrive. Those were nice. Tie game.
- McGrady got to the rim but let Rondo bother him and missed. That’s bad. “I missed an easy-[arse] shot right there,” he said.
And then Joe passed out of a double team, McGrady drove to get Kevin Garnett off the perimeter and kicked out to Green, who got a pretty good look after pump-faking Ray Allen. Not a bad process even if the result wasn’t good.
- “It was an isolation on the wing,” Joe said. “They came with a double team and I made the right play. I thought Willie had a great look at it. Pump fake and one dribble, that’s a shot he normally makes. That’s a shot we work on in practice but unfortunately it didn’t go down.”
- The overtime didn’t go as well offensively for the Hawks. Drew called a timeout and isolated McGrady, balky ankle and all, against Pierce. He missed. After a Celtics shot-clock violation, Joe got past Pietrus for a layup. But after a Rondo airball, Joe missed a short jumper off an isolation.
- Garnett got a tip dunk, Joe missed a 3 and that was it.
- “We’ve been a team that has had adversity throughout the season like everybody else,” Drew said. “It says a lot about your team when they can step up in the playoffs short-handed and put yourself in position to win.”
- It says a lot more if you actually win. The margin is thin in this series and some of Drew’s personnel decisions were odd.
- The game changed when Rondo attacked Jannero Pargo on three straight possessions early in the fourth quarter. Drew called a timeout but left Pargo in as Kirk Hinrich, who had done a respectable job checking Rondo, sat for the entire fourth quarter and overtime.
- Drew eventually replaced Pargo with Green. “I thought about bringing [Hinrich] back but I really was searching for someone who could make a shot,” Drew said. “I went with Willie, he came in and knocked down a big three for us. I elected to ride those guys out.”
- Drew also sat Johnson and Teague together for 4:20 and 10 possessions spanning the third and fourth quarters and the Hawks didn’t score: Ivan Johnson missed two Js, Pargo missed three shots and threw away a pass, Dampier missed, Green missed a 3, Marvin Williams traveled and McGrady missed a 3.
- At least there was some rhyme and reason for Drew to sit Joe for seven minutes: Joe ended up playing the entire second half and overtime. But if that was the plan, couldn’t Drew have staggered the rest over two stretches so Joe or Teague could always be on the court?
- Then again, I’m not even sure Drew planned to ride Joe after halftime. “I didn’t want that game to get away from us,” he said. “At the end of the third quarter asked him how he felt, he said he felt good. He wasn’t tired so I decided to ride him.”
- This is a game where Joe needed to take 28 shots and he did well to get 29 points with just two turnovers. The eight rebounds were important, too. Yes, Joe had some isos, but I thought he was decisive and aggressive in those situations so the Celtics never really were able to smother him.
- Teague (23 points on 16 shots, six assists against two turnovers) was great. The Hawks were at their best when he found the perfect balance between attacking to score and finding teammates. “I was just playing aggressive,” he said. “Trying to get some kind of offense going and get us back into it.” He didn’t get many touches in overtime.
- McGrady was good, too, save for some bad turnovers that coincided with Pargo’s struggles. He gave the Celtics a lot of problems with his size around the basket. He lost some of his effectiveness after he rolled his ankle late in the first half. “It wasn’t the same,” he said. “I really couldn’t get the lift I wanted to and I hesitated to cut.” He said he was sore after playing 41 minutes but planned to play through any bumps and bruises in Game 4.
- Marvin passed up a lot of open shots–that traveling call I mentioned previously happened when he had a clean look on the secondary break but pump-faked instead of shooting. The 11 defensive rebounds in 20 minutes were an important contribution considering he was playing on the frontline. But the the Hawks needed points and he was -10 in spite of playing more alongside the starters.
- Pargo, in addition to his defensive struggles, took and missed bad shots and didn’t run the offense.
- Dampier looked dang near spry while skying for rebounds, throwing down dunks and contesting the Celtics at the rim. Credit his professionalism for being ready after being on the shelf for so long.
- Collins had a couple silly fouls and four turnovers. But four points on four shots, three rebounds in 20 minutes. Collins ended up -2 in 20 minutes even though Garnett and Bass took him outside.
- There have been diminishing returns in the last two games with Ivan, especially on offense. He was out there without Teague or Joe there to steady things.
- Green made some timely shots and didn’t hurt the Hawks defensively in 15 minutes.
- Vladimir Radmanovic made his series debut and didn’t get off a shot until a 3 attempt in garbage time.
- Rondo had a triple-double. His final line was rough (17 points on 22 shots, six turnovers) but he took over the game after halftime. “I could hear him say, ‘Let’s get to the rim,’” Teague said. “They were trying to get offensive rebounds. I guess we have to live with him scoring. We don’t want Paul Pierce and those guys to get it going so we have to live with him taking shots. He made some tonight.”
- The Hawks will regroup for Game 4 and hope Josh Smith is back in the fold. “We are still very confident,” Joe said. “This series is far from over. We have just got to keep fighting and keep grinding. We will find some way to get a win.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat