Rondo came up with an improbable steal as the Hawks inbounded, but with no timeouts and great defense by Horford, Rondo was left to dribble wildly as the clock expired. The series goes back to Boston. See you Thursday.
Fourth quarter, :10.9, Hawks 87-86: Pierce went from hero to "what was that" in a matter of seconds.
Somehow, the Hawks left Pierce wide open out of a timeout, and Pierce delivered a 3-pointer to pull Boston within a point. After getting the ball back, the Celtics isolated Pierce on the wing against Johnson. The result was … an air ball.
Fourth quarter, 1:34, Hawks 87-83: Bass has had a rough, rough fourth quarter on the defensive end. He had several missed assignments during the Hawks' run, and he had another one to let Horford get free for a dunk off a drive and feed by Teague. He then got caught on a switch covering Johnson, which led to Smith scoring a floater against a scrambling Boston defense.
Fourth quarter, 2:39, game tied 83-83: Allen and Rondo appeared to be in no mood to play another game at home.
Allen drilled a corner 3-pointer to tie the game, wiping out a seven-point Atlanta lead less than two minutes ago. Allen has moved well all game, and if the Celtics could close out the series, they would have a few extra days to rest Pierce's knee.
That's not looking ahead. That is simply explaining the situation.
Fourth quarter, 4:18, Hakws 83-76: The Hawks liked the last few minutes of halves in this game. Much like the end of the second quarter, the Hawks got hot toward the end of the fourth quarter, with Smith and Johnson picking up where Horford left off in the third.
Rondo continued to push the pace, and Allen knocked down two shots in the fourth, but the Celtics' defensive breakdowns forced them to trade buckets with the Hawks. Bass in particular had a couple of bad missed assignments, from the first look.
Fourth quarter, 6:23, Hawks 77-74: Rivers took a lot of time getting Pierce off the bench in the fourth, leading speculation on Twitter than Pierce was done for the night. He was not. He returned with seven minutes left in regulation, but following his return, the Celtics' hard-earned lead turned into a three-point deficit.
End of third quarter, Hawks 66-64: The Celtics were down 12. Then Rondo arrived.
Rondo had been here for the entire game, but it was not until the final two minutes of the third quarter that the Celtics point guard turned it on. He scored six straight points to pull the Celtics back within four points. Mickael Pietrus made it a two-point game with an open-floor layup to finish the third.
Rondo's play wiped out a large Atlanta lead and overshadowed a strong third quarter by the Hawks, who had outscored the Celtics 26-15 before Rondo's outburst. Horford led their charge with nine points and four boards in the quarter.
Third quarter, 2:54, Hawks 65-54: Anyone who wondered how much of an impact Horford could have got their answer in this game. Horford was an animal inside, even though he was limited by his injured pectoral muscle. He had a double-double midway through the third quarter and already had three blocked shots. The longer this series continues, the more time Horford has to play back into shape and give the Hawks a clear advantage in the post.
Third quarter, 5:28, Hawks 56-52: The stagnant Hawks offense got a boost toward the end of the first half that carried over into the second half. The Hawks attacked the Celtics' defense in the third quarter by passing to the help defender's man, leading to easy baskets for Williams, Horford and Smith. The Celtics' defensive rotations did not come quick enough to compensate for the Hawks' approach.
The Hawks also picked up the pace, putting up 13 shots in the first six minutes of the third quarter. Horford led them with six points, but Smith was all over the place with four points and four rebounds.
Halftime, game tied 40-40: The Hawks finally found their touch in the closing minutes of the first half, outscoring the Celtics 20-12 over the final eight minutes of the second quarter. Joe Johnson got aggressive, scoring nine of his 11 points in the second quarter, and Teague hit a gliding 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Atlanta the lead with 10 seconds left.
Rondo responded with a buzzer-beating trey to knot up the score at halftime, but in a game that featured both teams shooting less than 40 percent, the final five minutes of the half were a veritable offensive explosion.
The Good: Johnson has been maligned for being quiet in the series, but his performance was loud in the second quarter. He wrapped up the first half with 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals. He scored in a variety of ways, with a floater, a post-up and a triple. … Brandon Bass never really made his mark offensively in the first four games, but he had a strong first half with 10 points and five rebounds.
The Bad: Josh Smith and Al Horford were a combined 2-for-14 from the field, basically making their 13 combined rebounds useless. … Rajon Rondo had a bad first half, so if tendencies hold, he should be setting up for a memorable second half. Rondo shot 2-for-7 and had three turnovers to only two assists. He had similar turnover issues in the first half of Game 3, and all he ended up doing in that game was finish with a triple-double.
The So-so: Paul Pierce started hot by hitting four of his first six shots, but he missed all four shots he attempted in the second quarter. He finished the first half with nine points, five rebounds and three steals, but his bothersome left knee bore watching.
Second quarter, 5:17, Celtics 29-24: Chances are the Celtics would not make it to 90 points after three quarters again, not with the way they shot in the early going of this one. The Celtics missed 20 of their first 31 shots, leaning on the ailing Allen to generate offense. Allen hit his first two shots and three free throws (although surprisingly he missed two) for seven points. Five of those points came in the first seven minutes of the second quarter.
Second quarter, 8:06, Celtics 28-20: One of the Celtics' hobbled veterans looked to have a bounce in his step, while another seemed to be having trouble moving.
Pierce looked to be missing some lift after he tweaked his sore left knee. He missed two flat 3-pointers and front-rimmed another jumper.
Allen moved well, though, sprinting off screens and even taking the ball to the hoop.
The Hawks continued their horrid shooting, falling to 29 percent from the field four minutes into the second quarter. Keyon Dooling's ball pressure disrupted the Hawks getting into their offense.
End of first quarter, Celtics 21-15: Kevin Garnett gave the Celtics strong play at both ends of the floor, capping off the first quarter with a jumper from the top of the key to give the Celtics a seven-point lead. With Garnett in the middle, the Celtics held the Hawks to 6-for-21 shooting and forced six turnovers in the first quarter. That defense helped the Celtics overcome their own middling 9-for-20 shooting mark and a 15-12 rebounding disadvantage.
Pierce was 4-for-6 from the field for nine points. He also had two steals.
First quarter, 3:01, Celtics 15-11: The score is not as lopsided, but this one started out very similarly to Game 4. The Hawks turned the ball over, let the Celtics dictate the pace of the game and displayed poor shot selection, going just 4-for-16 from the field.
The difference in this one was that the Celtics did not convert every scoring opportunity. The Celtics shot only 6-for-15 in the first nine minutes, and Horford had a clear impact on the boards, where Atlanta held a 13-8 advantage.
First quarter, 8:09, Celtics 11-3: Despite their huge size advantage, the Hawks curiously did not try to ram it down the Celtics' throats right off the tip. Instead, the Hawks tried fancy passes and perimeter jumpers, leading to turnovers and long rebounds that sparked Boston's fast break.
The Hawks committed three turnovers in the first four minutes and missed their first five shots.
7:26 p.m.: As if there was any doubt, every Celtic who was supposedly a question mark for Game 5 is suited up and ready to go.
Pierce will play with a sore left knee and Avery Bradley will play despite a sore left shoulder that was dislocated over the weekend. Ray Allen should be good to go as well.
The Hawks apparently plan to try to bludgeon the Celtics with their size. Joe Johnson will move to shooting guard, with Marvin Williams starting at small forward. That gives the Hawks four players 6-foot-8 or taller in the starting lineup, while the Celtics will have four players 6-foot-8 or shorter in their lineup.
Those starting lineups appear below.
8 a.m. ET: The next round is within the Celtics' reach. All they have to do is win one of the next three games to eliminate the Hawks and move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Hawks have designs on advancing too, of course, and they will have home-court advantage when the Celtics visit for Game 5 on Tuesday night. The Hawks were embarrassed at the TD Garden on Sunday and should be in ill humor for Tuesday's game.
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Avery Bradley, Mickael Pietrus and others will be dealing with injuries for the Celtics, and their statuses for Game 5 remain uncertain.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m.