by Jonathan Evans
It’s probably safe to assume that anyone reading this already has some idea of how this one went down. Suffice it to say this was a big game that didn’t disappoint. Here’s how it went down.
— As he in introduced, Mike Bibby is once again on the receiving end of a healthy round of boos from the Boston faithful. Not known for their forgiveness, the Boston ‘faithful’ clearly relish the chance to have such a clear target for their venom.
— K.G. rebounds his own miss but Horford engulfs his putback attempt. On the other end, he hits a jumper to stake the Hawks to an early lead. Continues his strong start with a strong drive for two more. 9-5 Hawks.
— Jumpers from K.G. keep the C’s close early. A driving layup from Rondo pulls the Celtics within four, 15-11.
— Bibby penetrates and dishes a no look pass to cutting Solomon Jones who throws down one handed slam. Frankly I’m still a little disappointed that someone actually has the name Solomon Jones and it wasn’t a complete construct from Aceyalone. 17-11, Hawks.
— Flip Murray, in for Bibby, hits the open look from three. Next time down, drives strong down the lane, takes the hit and hits for old-fashioned three-point play, 26-18 Hawks.
— C’s try to crank flip the switch and claw back into the game. They run a fullcourt press, catching the Hawks off guard, forcing a steal that leads to a layup by Ray. Next time down, the pressure forces a shot clock violation for the Hawks.
— So much for the Celtics turning it up. After drawing within two, the C’s end the quarter down by seven. A Flip Murray buzzer-beating three caps yet another strong start for a Celtics opponent.
— Flip strikes again. Drives to the hole, takes the hit from Powe and converts the and-1. That’s a game-high 11 for Flip. 34-24, Hawks
— Hawks active on defense, denying the ball on inbounds and forcing a Celtics timeout.
— Solomon pins a Baby lay up against the glass. “Solomon Jones everybody,” begins the reporter sitting next to me. “Starting for your Eastern Conference finalist [Atlanta Hawks].” Probably safe to assume he was joking. Though judging from tonight, its not as absurd a thought as it would once seem. Atlanta is legit.
— Marvin Williams connects from deep as the Hawks are shooting over 50 percent from the floor.
— Flip steals. On the break, he misses the lay-in but no other C’s get back on defense so Joe is there for the follow up to put ATL up 44-28. Pretty quiet here at the Garden, perhaps Bibby was on to something.
— And down goes Zaza. The biggest Hawk tumbles to the deck as Rondo knocks him over while picking his pocket at the top of the key. Other end, Pierce hits a three from the right wing, 44-36.
— Surprise, another guy gets in the face of Kendrick and needs to be pulled back. This time it’s, Solomon Jones. At this point, Kendrick Perkins pissing someone on the other team off is becoming a daily occurrence. Its like the sunrise.
— The C’s defense has finally decided to make an appearance. They’ve begun forcing Atlanta into tough jumpers and have held them without a field goal over six minutes. A 20-4 run for the C’s over that span ties it at 48.
— Noting the C’s run, the reporter next to me claims that this years Celtics have turned into the new Detroit Pistons.
— Note to Atlanta: Don’t double Rondo on a pick and toll and leave K.G. unaccounted for in the paint. Rondo throws it up and K.G. emphatically slams it home. Fouled on the play, his freethrow gives the C’s their first lead of the game.
— Bibby, comes off screen, crosses the helping Ray, hits floater. 53-51 Hawks.
— Hawks continue to win the battle of the Tommy Points. Solomon dives out of bounds for an offensive rebound to save a possession. His efforts lead to a three from Bibby. 57-54 Birds.
— K.G. jabsteps, drives middle and drains the soft jumper. 60-60.
— On one hand its easy to criticize the Hawks stagnant one-on-one offense this quarter, but when Joe Johnson crosses up Ray, drives and smoothly hits a reverse layup over Perk, it might be best to just sit back and enjoy the show. Five left in the period, 64-64.
— Double-R leads the C’s break. Finds the trialing Pierce for spot-up three. Wet, 69-67 Boston.
— Rondo must have dome something to Zaza because the Hawks have stayed small all quarter, forcing Marvin to have to body up K.G.
— Jumper from Joe knots it back up at 75 all. Nice battle of the swingmen developing this quarter as Joe’s 10 points this quarter are countered on the other end by 12 from Pierce.
— Two minutes in, Horford picks up his fifth personal biting hard on a Pierce pumpfake. Foul trouble has limited Al to just 15 minutes so far.
— Leading a C’s break Tony Allen gets stuck and throws up an indescribably awkward looking finger roll. Other end, three by Joe knots the game back at 83.
— The Hawks lack of size is hurting them this quarter. With less than four left, they force Pierce into a tough jumper that he misses. K.G. easily wins the battle for the long rebound with Bibby. This second life for the C’s leads to a lob to K.G. for the layup, putting them up four and forcing Woodson to call a timeout.
— We are treated to what can only be described as a K.G. moment. Out of the timeout, he pounds his chest repeatedly and yells at the crowd. Obviously, the crowd eats it all up and eggs K.G. on further. Before ATL inbounds, he races down court to get in Bibby’s face and reprises the clap and yell routine he did to Calderon the previous game.
— Celtics fans revive the “Rondo’s better” chant as Bibby steps to the line. Unfazed, he hits two freethrows to make it a two-point game with three minutes left.
— Lots of dribbling from Joe as he dances around looking for a hole in the Celtics defense. He finds one and hits a tough shot in the paint over multiple defenders. 94-92 Boston.
— Hawks defense forces a 20-foot baseline jumper from Rondo as the shot clock winds down. You’d have to imagine there’s nothing more they’d prefer but this time Double-R drains it. 96-92 Celtics, 2:09 left.
— Evans hits a corner three to pull the Hawks back within one. On the ensuing Celtics possession, Pierce sets up at the top of the key on Evans. He drives left, takes the hit and hits the lay up. The three-point play puts Boston back up four.
— Down two, Joe Johnson surveys the scene from up top. Setting up on Pierce, Joe drives right and puts up a running jumper from the baseline. Wet. For the 18th time tonight, we’re tied, 99 all.
— Pierce drive, fouled by Joe on his way to the hoop. Amidst the MVP chants, Pierce hits them both to put C’s back up two with 21 seconds left.
— Joe Johnson drives left. Drawing the defense, he finds Marvin Williams open in the corner for three. Buckets. Hawks bench celebrates as 18,000 people sigh in synchronized disappointment. Hawks up by one, with seven ticks left, timeout Boston.
— Out of the timeout, K.G. takes the inbounds pass. Pierce, curls around the screen and gets a handoff from K.G. up top. Dribbles right, pulls up, fades back and drains the jumper over the outstretched arms of Horford with 0.5 seconds left. This place has exploded. Ballgame.
“Before we even start let me just say this,” a visibly animated K.G. begins. “The last play was drawn up as get the ball to Paul Pierce and get the hell out of the way. Superman is in the booth.”
“Am I lying?” Garnett asks as he looks over to Pierce.
“You crazy,” Pierce laughingly responds. For the second game in a row, Pierce conducts the post game conference with his shooting hand wrapped with ice. Clearly the sprained hand he’s nursing hasn’t affected his crunch time scoring as he’s combined to score 50 points in the second halves of the last two games. These exploits were highlighted by 22 in the final 12 minutes against Toronto and then the game winner with .5 seconds left here against the Hawks.
“We’re going to keep that hand the way it is,” Garnett affirms.