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Fast Break: C’s hold on late against Hawks, take 2-1 series lead

05.04.12 at 10:43 pm ET
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The Celtics beat the Hawks 90-84 on Friday night. Boston had an 80-72 lead with just over four minutes left, but failed to score the rest of the way while the Hawks went on an 8-0 run to force overtime. The Celtics mustered just enough offense to secure the victory and take a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 on Sunday.

Rajon Rondo registered his seventh career postseason triple-double with 17 points 14 rebounds, and 12 assists. Paul Pierce scored 21 points even though he only hit 3 of his 12 shots from the field. Kevin Garnett had four blocks and added a double-double of his own with 20 points and 13 rebounds. For the Hawks, Joe Johnson scored 29 points on 11-of-28 shooting.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Wise Man: Pierce’s performance in Game 2 has been dissected and discussed to the point of nausea. That’s OK, of course, it was a clutch. But Friday night, his shot simply wasn’t falling. So what did he do? He manufactured points by getting to the charity stripe. The Truth attempted 14 freebees … and converted all of them.

Return of Rajon: Rondo’s return from his one game suspension for bumping official Marc Davis started rather spotty. On one hand, he missed all three of his first half shot attempts and, worse, had five turnovers. He showed signs of his brilliance, however, while dishing out five assists through 24 minutes.

The second half saw Rondo return to form. His shooting numbers were still spotty (he was finished 7-of-23 from the field), but he ended up dishing out 12 assists and grabbed 14 rebounds while registering his seventh career triple-double in the playoffs (and the 20th of his career). Oh yeah, and the floor general only had one turnover in the entire second half and overtime.

Ray of Sunshine: Ray Allen gave the Celtics everything they could have possibly expected while playing his first competitive basketball game in 24 days. In the first half he was 4-of-6 from the field with eight points. The Celtics continued to struggle offensively, but Rivers went to a three-guard lineup, playing Allen alongside Avery Bradley and Rondo, and Boston’s offense appeared more fluent.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Not Your Average Joe: The former Celtic — well for half his rookie season anyway — is the source of much scrutiny because of the six-year $123 million contract he signed in 2010. It’s a tough bill to live up to. In Games 1 and 2, the scoring guard struggled — shooting a combined 10-of-32 of the field — but with Josh Smith unavailable Friday night, Johnson came out aggressive, and kept the Hawks in contention for much of the night. With just over a minute left, Johnson showed some clutchness himself, knocking down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 80.

Pest Control: An underrated story line this series has been the play of Jeff Teague. Friday night he continued to flash his dribble penetration ability, slicing through the Celtics’ defense en route to 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting.

Small Ball: It Giveth, and taketh away: The Celtics made a run playing Pierce at power forward and were able to grab a two-point lead by halftime. Offensively, the team had more flow, but to many times the Celtics found themselves stuck in defensive mismatches. Rondo and Bradley were put in bad switches, guarding Tracy McGrady and Johnson in the post, which lead to easy baskets for Atlanta. The Hawks outscored the Celtics 28-6 in points in the paint in the first half.

Late to the Party and Early to Leave: After a dramatic Game 2 victory on the road, a raucous crowd filled the Garden smelling blood: The Celtics had seized momentum, recovered from Bump-Gate, and had Allen and Rondo returning to the lineup. How did they respond? By shooting 28.6 percent from the field and committing four turnovers in the first quarter alone. The Hawks weren’t exactly playing all-world basketball either, shooting 32 percent, but Boston was unable to step on the Hawks throat early.

Meanwhile, the Celtics held an 80-72 lead with just over four minutes left. They would remain stuck at 80 when regulation ended, while relenting an 8-0 run to the Hawks to force overtime. The scoreless drought is nothing new for Boston, but was ill-timed as the game appeared to be in hand.

Avery Ailing: Bradley left the game in the second half due to a left shoulder injury. He was initially set to return, but then was ruled out for the rest of the game. This could be a concern going forward.

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