|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett just plain dirty in Celtics win||05.10.12 at 10:45 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett must not like business trips to Atlanta all that much. The Celtics center submitted a virtuoso performance that seemed fresh out of a 2008 time machine — including the go-ahead turnaround with 30 seconds left — carrying the Celtics to a 83-80 victory against the visiting Hawks and putting a bow on their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series in six games.
Garnett finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, becoming the first player in a Celtics uniform to register that kind of line in the playoffs since Kevin McHale totaled 27 points, 15 boards and six blocks in 1986. Rajon Rondo (14 points, 8 assists) and Paul Pierce (18 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds) were the only other C’s in double figures.
Trailing 79-78 with less than a minute remaining, Garnett dropped a turnaround in the lane that gave the Celtics the lead for good after they squandered a nine-point advantage in the fourth quarter. Following a stop on the other end, Ray Allen made just 1-of-2 free throws with nine seconds on the clock, but Al Horford countered with 1-of-2 of his own with three seconds remaining. A pair of Pierce freebies put the finishing touches on the victory.
Thanks to a pair of missed Omer Asik free throws and two successful Andre Iguadola attempts at the charity stripe in the final seconds, the 76ers eked out a 79-78 victory against the Derrick Rose-less Bulls to win the series in six games. The win means the C’s host the Eastern Conference semifinals, including Game 1 Saturday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ticket post: Garnett attempted just 12 field goals in Game 5, and half of them came from at least 18 feet. The Celtics made a concerted effort to get Garnett the ball in the post early, and he owned the paint from the start (on both ends). In Game 6, he took 10 shots — by halftime. All five of Garnett’s first-half field goals came within 12 feet of the basket, and he entered the break with 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals, as the C’s established a 47-41 lead through two quarters.
Backcourt boost: With little life in the building — and little for Celtics fans to cheer — four minutes into the second quarter, Rondo reentered the game for Keyon Dooling. The Hawks led 31-25. Over the next four minutes and change, the Celtics fired off a 16-0 run to establish a 41-31 advantage. Rondo had four points and three assists in that stretch and guarded 6-foot-9 Marvin Williams on the other end (or the vicinity thereof, wreaking havoc as a roaming defender). Meanwhile, Avery Bradley locked down a scoreless Jeff Teague in the first half.
No sprain, no gain: When Pierce’s first 3-point attempt fell flat off the front of the rim, it had to be from the lack of lift as a result of his sprained MCL, right? Not so much. The captain made four of his next five field goals, totaling 12 points in 16 first-half minutes and erasing any concern over how his knee would respond.
WALTHAM — Al Horford looked a bit timid at the beginning of Game 5. He was getting pushed around somewhat in the paint by the likes of Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins.
Then, a funny thing happened. He started hitting open jump shots.
He got his swagger, shook of the rust from Game 4 and three months of time on the bench rehabbing his torn left pectoral muscle and voila: Horford took over Game 5.
Horford finished the must-win game for the Hawks with 19 points and 11 rebounds in helping the Hawks to a 87-86 win over the Celtics.
“He’s a good player, he’s a good player,” Hollins said Thursday morning in the team’s shootaround. “He hits his open shots, passes well, plays really well with that team. We have to pay attention to him and make things tough for him. He’s a good player. He’s going to get his shots.
“He’s a good player. He thrives on contact, creating space for himself running the floor. He’s an All-Star in the league. That’s what All-Stars come out and do.”
What can Hollins provide?
“Energy, effort, teamwork, stuff that doesn’t show in the stat sheet,” said Hollins, who had five points, four rebounds, four fouls and one block in 19 minutes on Tuesday in Game 5.
Now, in the hours before Game 6, a game the Celtics need to win to avoid a trip back to Peachtree Street and Game 7 Saturday. It’s up to Garnett, Stiemsma and Hollins to step up and not give him the comfort zone he enjoyed in the final three quarters as Horford found his game.
“We all have to be ready, ready to play,” Hollins said. “It could be any of us called on. It could be Greg’s game, my game, Brandon’s game, whoever. We’ll all be ready tonight.
“The coaching staff keeps us always prepared. We’re ready for any situation, could be 20 minutes, five minutes, no minutes. We’re ready to go and ready to play.”
|Irish Coffee: 5 questions Celtics must solve in Game 6||05.09.12 at 2:04 pm ET|
In many ways, the Game 5 loss was simply a string of statistical Celtics anomalies that favored the Hawks.
- After making 21-of-82 treys in Games 1-4 (25.6%), The Hawks shot 7-of-16 from 3-point range (43.8%).
- The Hawks committed four more turnovers (18-14), but the Celtics scored four fewer points off them (21-25).
- After the Celtics kept pace on the glass in Games 1-4 (174-178), the Hawks won the Game 5 battle, 41-33.
- Paul Pierce air-balled a would-be go-ahead 20-footer with 18 seconds remaining.
- Rajon Rondo lost his sure handle and failed to deliver a pass while time expired.
Of course, there are reasons for those anomalies, so how must the Celtics adjust to avoid a Game 7 on the road?
|Josh Smith: Celtics ‘running plays way more harder’||05.07.12 at 12:58 am ET|
After the Celtics and Hawks were separated by just four points through the first three games of their series, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce & Co. put a 22-point whooping on Atlanta, and it wasn’t even that close.
The Celtics led by as many as 37 points, taking a 3-1 series lead with a chance to end the series on Tuesday.
“They shot the mess out of it tonight,” said Hawks forward Josh Smith, who returned from the left knee injury that kept him out of Game 3. “I’m watching it and being real observant when I’m on the bench. They’re just running the plays way more harder than we are. Whatever play is called, you know, Ray Allen is running off screens 100 miles per hour, Paul Pierce is finding a way to get open, the bigs are setting screens, getting the guards open.
“We have to try to duplicate what they do,” added Smith. “We have to try to get open. They’re trying so hard for Joe [Johnson] not to catch the ball. They’re being real physical with him, so we have to be able to match their physicality and be able to try to return the favor a little bit, see if they like it and stop being so passive.”
|Horford Admires Ortiz’s Work Ethic||11.13.09 at 11:15 pm ET|
BOSTON — Amid a growing rivalry between the Celtics and Hawks, Al Horford formed a close relationship with a Boston sports icon.
Horford, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, has been a fan of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz for years. The feeling was mutual. Ortiz watched Horford’s father, Tito, play in the NBA and was excited for the younger ball player to make it to the NBA.
After the two were told of each other’s mutual admiration, they met during Horford’s rookie season at TD Garden. They have developed a friendship over the past two years, and Horford even visits with Ortiz whenever the Hawks come to Boston.
“I know that since I’ve been there, the last two days he’s been at Fenway working out, that’s all I can say,” Horford told WEEI.com on Friday.
Horford always respected Ortiz’s game, and this week he saw his work ethic firsthand.
“It looks like the season just got over and he’s already getting back to work,” Horford said. “So that speaks a lot about him.”
|Horford Tweets: ‘I do not bet on basketball’||10.22.09 at 9:44 am ET|
Hawks center Al Horford took to the Twitter to tell his followers that he was joking about making a wager with Paul Pierce for $10,000 during the 2008 playoffs and that he doesn’t bet on hoops, or any other sport for that matter.
Horford caused a mini controversy earlier in the week after an appearance on an Atlanta sports talk show with teammate Marvin Williams in which he said that Pierce bet him $10,000 that the Hawks wouldn’t win a game during their first round series with the Celtics.
On Wednesday, Horford posted two comments on Twitter:
“Some of my comments from the radio interview I did yesterday with 790 the zone were overblown. I was joking.”
“Paul Pierce and I did not make a bet during the playoffs in 2008. I do not bet on basketball or any other sports.”
|Hawks explain Celtics keys to postseason success||04.03.09 at 11:07 pm ET|
Before the Boston Celtics won their 17th world championship and proved “anything is possible,” the Atlanta Hawks proved something of their own – beating the Celtics was possible, too.
Despite looking unstoppable heading into the playoffs last season, the Celtics needed seven games to fend off the eighth-seeded Hawks. This season they are even more vulnerable, with injuries hampering their lineup. If the Celtics came dangerously close to elimination with a healthy squad, what do they have to do this season to avoid another first round scare?
“They just have to come out to try to keep focused throughout the whole series,” said Al Horford prior to the Celtics-Hawks game (RECAP HERE). “I think that after them beating us the first two games here (Boston), they thought that they could just go into Atlanta and take care of it. But they didn’t realize what was ahead of them. I think they know this by now. They know they have to come in and they have to bring their A-game on the road too.”
The Celtics inability to win on the road nearly cost them their title. They folded in Atlanta — “[They played] totally different. Totally different,” said Horford — and it wasn’t until Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons that they finally won away from the Garden.
“They are a lot more energetic, I would say, [at home]. They get up and down a lot more and play with a lot more confidence at home, so it makes them a much better team,” said Joe Johnson. “I don’t think they run as much [on the road]. I just think that as soon as you go on the road, the atmosphere is not the same. You’re just not used to a lot of things. But at home, that’s where you’re more comfortable so you tend to play more relaxed and have a lot more confidence.”
Even if the Celtics overcome their woes on the road, there is still a bigger concern – the nagging knee injury of Kevin Garnett. He averaged nearly 21 points (more than twenty percent of the Celtics total offense) and nine rebounds per game in the first round against Atlanta. But the Hawks have lost twice to Celtics this season without Garnett and think they can compensate for his absence.
“Keep (Glen) Big Baby Davis confident in his play and keep having Mikki Moore come off the bench and play well like he’s doing,” suggested Josh Smith. “I don’t think they have anything to worry about.”
In less than two weeks the Celtics will be drawing up their gameplan for the start of the postseason. While they have three first round losses to the Hawks to reflect on, they may have already learned all the lessons they need.
“Just win, that’s what it comes down to,” said Hawks head coach Mike Woodson. “I think the fact that they might not have homecourt advantage all the way through, when you win a title that doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t because these guys, they’ve been through the wars. They went seven with us, they went seven with Cleveland, Detroit gave them a good run. There’s nothing they haven’t seen so I don’t think it really matters.
“They’re going to be there when it counts. I promise you that.”