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As Celtics face Game 5 on road, Brad Stevens raves about fans, TD Garden atmosphere: ‘It was incredible’ 04.25.16 at 9:31 pm ET
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Celtics mascot Lucky runs with a banner during the second half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics mascot Lucky runs with a banner during the second half of Sunday’s Game 4 against the Hawks at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

If only the Celtics could bottle up the electric, deafening atmosphere from TD Garden and bring all the fans with them for Game 5, leaning on them like they did in the 104-95 overtime win Sunday.

“I think it’s less about where it is and more about how you play,” the always calm and cool Brad Stevens said Monday. “At the same time, I certainly haven’t been in many playoff environments like the last two games. It was incredible.”

There no doubt will be noise inside Philips Arena for the pivotal swing game in the series, but it won’t be nearly as intense as what the Hawks experienced in Games 3 and 4. 

As a matter of fact, when the series opened in Atlanta on April 16, there were hundreds of empty seats with neon yellow shirts on them. The Hawks attempted to hide the fact that Atlanta, a notoriously passive sports town, wasn’t fully behind its NBA team in the first round of the playoffs. 

The Hawks managed to hold serve at home with wins in the first two games. 

When the series shifted to Boston last Friday, the decibel level went through the roof. The Celtics responded with a 37-20 quarter right out of the chute. They held on for a 111-103 win. The crowd rewarded that with an even crazier atmosphere in Game 4, when Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and players Rob Gronkowski and LeGarrette Blount showed up.

The Hawks might not have noticed the Patriotic impact, but they sure heard it. When Isaiah Thomas drained a 3 from the right baseline in in front of Belichick in the final minute of overtime, the Garden was literally shaking. 

“Oh yeah, they have a great crowd and they really fed off of it,” Kyle Korver said. “When your crowd’s screaming behind you, the basket seems bigger and there’s a lot more adrenaline, and they played really well here. Give them credit.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens
Who should be on Celtics’ radar in Game 5? Brad Stevens playing it cautious with Kelly Olynyk 04.25.16 at 3:59 pm ET
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Apr 24, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) shoots the ball over Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the second half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Hawks forward Paul Millsap shoots over Marcus Smart during the second half of Sunday’s Game 4. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Who will step up for Atlanta in Game 5?

That has to be the question Brad Stevens is asking himself and his staff as they prepare for a critical swing game in the first-round series. After going 1-for-10 and missing all seven from long range in Game 1, Kyle Korver hit on 5-of-7 from deep and 6-of-9 overall in Atlanta’s 89-72 win in Game 2. 

Paul Millsap went 1-for-12 in Game 2 and 3-for-9 in Game 3 before coming to life for 45 points on 19-of-31 shooting on Sunday. Korver was back down to 3-for-11 on Sunday while a dinged up Al Horford was 2-for-8 and Jeff Teague was 4-for-18, so there’s plenty to choose from. 

“Well, one of the things about great players in this league is, when they have a tough game the game before they usually come out with a great hunger and we saw that from Korver in Game 2. You saw that from Millsap in Game 4,” Stevens said Monday. “I think that that’s just kind of the way that this league goes. And even during the game, that was a really hard call with Millsap, because the one thing that you don’t want to do is get those other guys going.”

And that is the biggest factor Stevens has to weigh when considering how to use Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson in Game 5. 

“If you put too much emphasis on doubling the post or rotating or whatever the case may be, now [Kent] Bazemore gets a wide-open 3 in the corner or a layup on a cut, or Teague hits an open 3, Korver gets an open 3,” Stevens added. “Those are bad things as well. It’s a tough call in the heat of the moment, you just kind of go with what you’re feeling at that moment, go with what you’re seeing. Then go with any numbers that might back up your decision.”

Kelly Olynyk might play more in Game 5, or he might not. The Celtics 7-footer played just three minutes in the first half of Sunday’s game and missed the only shot he took, a misfire that was way right of its mark. Olynyk was available for the first time since Game 1 when he re-aggravated his reportedly separated right shoulder. 

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Kyle Korver
Brad Stevens on Marcus Smart for Game 5: ‘Don’t know how we could put him on the court much more’ 04.25.16 at 3:31 pm ET
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Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) blocks the shot of Hawks center Al Horford (15). (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Marcus Smart blocks the shot of Hawks center Al Horford in Sunday’s game. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics didn’t practice Monday, and Marcus Smart can be very happy about that. 

When he checked in for Jonas Jerebko with 9:20 left in the third quarter of Game 4 on Sunday, he probably didn’t think he would play the rest of the game. But that’s what he did. 

He played the final 28 minutes and 40 seconds of an epic, highly-charged and intense playoff game at TD Garden. His defense on Paul Millsap for the final 10 minutes was a big reason the Celtics were able to pull out a 104-95 win in overtime and tie the series at 2-2. 

But just because he held Millsap to four points in the final 10 minutes doesn’t mean Brad Stevens won’t put him back on Kyle Korver (whom he guarded initially) or Jeff Teague or anyone else. 

“I think obviously we’ll play him on a bunch of different guys the way we have all season,” Stevens said in a conference call Monday before heading off on a flight to Atlanta for Game 5 Tuesday. “We’re going to have to play the game as it goes.”

Evan Turner took the place of Smart in the starting lineup after Smart went 1-for-11 from the field and the Celtics needed the scoring. Sunday, Smart hit a pair of huge threes back-to-back to put the Celtics on top, 85-84, midway through the fourth. Smart played 41 of the 53 minutes Sunday and scored 20 points. 

“I don’t know how we could put him on the court much more,” Stevens said. “He played the last [nine] minutes of the third quarter, the whole fourth quarter and overtime. So, whether he starts or not, really to me is inconsequential. He’s going to play a lot and then we’ll figure out what match-ups we’ll need to hit during the game.

“That’s part of what the way I’m looking at it right now. Obviously, we’ve started decent each of the last two games. There’s going to be times where we need Marcus to guard Teague, Marcus to guard Korver, Marcus to guard Millsap, et cetera. We’ll play it by ear. We’ll see how it’s going with that. But, he’s going to play his typical lot of minutes.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas
What exactly were Hawks thinking on last play of regulation? Isaiah Thomas doesn’t have a clue 04.25.16 at 1:45 am ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots the ball past Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0). (Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas shoots over Hawks guard Jeff Teague. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

If you watched the final 15 seconds of regulation in stunned amazement Sunday, you were hardly alone. Even Isaiah Thomas, who was covering the player with the ball, did not quite know what the Hawks were doing in a 92-92 game. 

Instead of finding Paul Millsap, who had scored 45 points, point guard Jeff Teague received the ball and proceeded to dribble and dribble and dribble. He was going to isolate Thomas and pull up for the game-winner. He didn’t even really get a chance to do that as he lost his handle with three seconds left. 

The game went to overtime and the Celtics outscored Atlanta 12-3 in the extra period for a 104-95 win in Game 4, tying the series. Was it just great defense by Thomas and denying the driving lane? 

“Nah, don’t give me no props for that,” Thomas said. “I don’t know what they were doing. I think they were trying to isolate me. I felt like he took a little bit too long and I kind of knew what he was going to do once the clock hit three or four seconds. Most guards do a hesitation pull-up, and he tried it and lost the ball.” 

His coach gave him a little more credit than that.

“Well, they were sprinting to slip [Kyle] Korver off of a screen to try to give Teague an alley to drive and Isaiah did a good job of keeping him squared  up,” Brad Stevens said. “Didn’t give him an alley to drive, and then made a nice — I think Teague slipped or whatever, but he was forced way out. Isaiah did a really nice job in that position.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs Marcus Smart, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Jeff Teague
Isaiah Thomas talks about Game 4 win, then his sons steal show 04.25.16 at 12:04 am ET
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Well, we have our family feel-good moment of the 2016 NBA playoffs.

Following a 28-point performance in the Celtics’ heart-pounding 104-95 overtime win in Game 4 Sunday night at TD Garden, Isaiah Thomas hit the postgame podium.

But unlike Friday night, he had two special guests, sons Jaden and James. “The new ‘Big Three’ up there, or ‘medium-sized three’ or whatever,” longtime Celtics public relations man Jeff Twiss quipped at the beginning. The boys were beside Thomas during his six-minute session with reporters.

After talking about the great play of Marcus Smart shutting down Paul Millsap and how great it is to be even again in the series, Thomas walked off the stage, but his sons weren’t done.

“Hi everybody. Isaiah is the greatest basketball player. Thank you,” James Thomas said.

Celtics fans are thanking the dad for giving them hope that the kids might be making a return engagement sometime soon on the dais. 

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Jaden Thomas
Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on how Marcus Smart, Celtics won Game 4 04.24.16 at 11:16 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard discuss how Marcus Smart and the Celtics stopped Paul Millsap and the Hawks when it mattered most in a 104-95 overtime win Sunday night at TD Garden. Millsap scored 45 points but only two when Marcus Smart was guarding him for the final 10 minutes of the game. The Celtics also caught a break when Hawks point guard Jeff Teague dribbled out the final 15 seconds of regulation.

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart on being assigned Paul Millsap: ‘I was a little surprised’ 04.24.16 at 10:37 pm ET
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Brad Stevens figured he had nothing to lose. 

Paul Millsap had 24 points at the half Sunday night. He came out and had baskets over, in order, Evan Turner, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder to open the second half. The Celtics defensive engine was leaking oil and fast. The C’s trailed 62-46 midway through the third. The Hawks stopped going to Millsap long enough for the Celtics to catch their breath and catch up by the end of the third quarter. 

Boston trailed just 73-70 heading into the fourth. Millsap had 36, almost half of Atlanta’s points. Then Millsap turned it on again to start the fourth, scoring seven more points before Stevens had seen enough. 

The Celtics coach turned to Marcus Smart and essentially said, “You’re up next. Go get ’em, Marcus.” 

“To be honest I was a little surprised with the height and size advantage that he had,” Smart said of the half-foot height he was giving up to Millsap. “But just to really stop and make it hard for him, pressure him and really contest every shot that he took.”

It worked. Millsap scored just two more points, finishing with 45, and the Celtics pulled out a stunning 104-95 overtime win Sunday night to even the series heading back to Atlanta for Tuesday’s Game 5.

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart
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