The Celtics  four-game road trip began inauspiciously with an ugly win over Minnesota and a high-scoring loss to the Pacers. It ended in much the same manner with a highlight win over the Spurs off-set by an 88-83 loss to the Hawks  that featured another fourth quarter collapse.
Here’s how it happened:
WHAT WENT WRONG
Second half bench minutes: The Celtics had built a 66-55 lead late in the third quarter when Doc Rivers  turned to his bench. By the time Paul Pierce  checked back in early in the fourth quarter, the Hawks a 71-69 lead. One way or another the reserves were going to have to play substantial minutes in this game. With this exception of Delonte West  who played well, it was an uneven performance.
Serious shortage of bigs: With Nenad Krstic  scheduled for an MRI, Shaquille O’Neal  still a few days away (at least) and Garnett playing shorter minutes because of the back-to-back, the Celts front line depth was paper-thin. Jermaine O’Neal gave them 13 minutes and they would have been in deep trouble without them, but O’Neal is still getting his timing back. The Celtics gave up 14 offensive rebounds and it cost them the game.
Free throw shooting: Making 11 of 20 free throws on the road will never get it done, especially when the hometowm team goes 26-for-30. The Celtics lost by five points and were -15 at the free throw line.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
First half bench minutes: Rivers used the following lineup at one part of the first half: Delonte West, Von Wafer , Sasha Pavlovic , Jeff Green  and Jermaine O’Neal . The group had its obvious problems — notably Green trying to guard Atlanta’s Al Horford — but Rivers stuck with his bench players for most of the second quarter and they rewarded him by keeping the game close. The reserves soaked up almost eight minutes of court time and that allowed the starters to be fresh when they returned late in the first half and build an eight-point lead.
Paul Pierce picks it up: Early in the game, Pierce got into a minor altercation with Joe Johnson  who gave him a little extra shove on a foul. Pierce shoved back and was hit with a technical. The minor incident seemed to wake up the Celtics who were down 15-10 at the time. Pierce scored 10 of his 25 points in the first quarter and had half the Celtics points in an otherwise sluggish opening quarter.
Kevin Garnett’s passing ability: Of all the starters Garnett has been the one that has constantly tried to facilitate ball movement, albeit sometimes to a fault. He had five assists in the first half and it was telling that he didn’t have any in the second, which is when the Celtics offense ground to a halt.