Final, Celtics 107-102: The weather outside was frightful, but the atmosphere inside TD Garden had to be delightful. With Paul Pierce leading the way and Jason Terry providing the final, decisive 3-pointer, the Celtics escaped with an overtime victory over the Hawks.
Pierce had 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and took the lead in the extra session. He scored or assisted on all 13 points in overtime, including the penetrate and kick out to Terry for a straightaway triple to ice the game.
Kevin Garnett had 17 points and eight rebounds, while Josh Smith and Al Horford combined for 54 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists in the loss.
The Celtics now move into a tie with the Hawks at 34-27 each, and Boston now holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Overtime, :35, Celtics 105-102: When Pierce is going like this, as an opponent, eventually you just have to put up your hands and say, what are we supposed to do?
Pierce’s imprint is all over this game. Not only has he hit a heavily contested three — which he has — he also drove against two defenders and kicked out to Terry for a triple.
That was all set up by some outstanding defense by Green, who got his right hand in to knock the ball away from Smith dribbling at the top of the key.
Overtime, 2:33, Celtics 99-98: Sometimes the bounce just goes your way. After the Hawks sprinted out to a four-point lead in the extra session, Pierce went hard to the hoop twice. He converted the first, then drew the defense and kicked outside to Green in the corner.
Green’s shot bounced off the rim, nestled around the cylinder a few times and then dropped through. Celtics lead.
End of regulation, game tied 94-94: Not entirely sure how Smith managed to catch the ball, fumble it, pump-fake and shoot a brick in 1.8 seconds with time to spare, but he did. And if he had not missed horribly, it could have been bad for the Celtics. There was even enough time for the Hawks to tip in the miss, if the Celtics had not gotten the rebound.
Anyway, we are headed to overtime. Let’s see how this goes.
Fourth quarter :01.8, game tied 94-94: Rivers drew up a dandy in a similar situation in the last game, but it looks like his touch was not magic this time. Garnett missed a long, fallaway jumper and the Hawks will have one shot at a prayer before overtime.
Fourth quarter, :22.8, game tied 94-94: Not entirely sure what just happened, but it appeared to involve Smith doing something not smart.
Posted up near the right block, Smith looked like he attempted a behind-the-back pass to, uh, nobody. Pierce and Garnett were there to scoop up the loose ball and the Celtics have possession.
Fourth quarter, :31.7, game tied 94-94: Well, it is tied. Actually, this is the second time in the last minute that it has been tied, after Smith and Korver scored on consecutive possessions to pull Atlanta even closer.
If not for two clutch jump shots by Pierce, the Hawks would be in control. Twice the Celtics absolutely needed a bucket and twice Pierce came through. His last gave Boston a momentary lead that Horford erased with an oop dunk from Teague.
Fourth quarter, 2:54, Celtics 90-87: Do the Celtics know it is OK for them to win here? They keep building nine-point leads, only to keep letting the Hawks climb back within striking distance. Smith dropped in a rough contested layup by Pierce to pull Atlanta within three, and the Celtics need to talk things over.
Fourth quarter, 5:38, Celtics 86-79: This must be a fun game to play in, since defense appears to be optional.
The Celtics put together a 10-0 run to burst into a 12-point lead, but over the next three minutes it seemed like neither team was that interested in stopping the other. The teams combined for 13 points, all of them within five feet of the basket until Teague hit an unmolested straightaway three to pull Atlanta within seven points.
Fourth quarter, 10:47, Celtics 77-70: Even the Celtics’ good plays are turnovers in the making. After Green fumbled a drive-and-dish from Terry that would have been a sure dunk, Terry tracked down the Atlanta outlet pass, stepped up and hit a short jumper. Terry’s shot helped extend Boston’s lead to seven points, following a 3-pointer by Crawford, but the Celtics cannot even seem to make positive plays without losing the ball first.
End of third quarter, Celtics 72-68: The Celtics are shooting lights out, but they have simply been careless with the ball. A few nights after fumbling away the ball 22 times, the Celtics have 12 mishandles after three quarters. Even the times they do not turn the ball over, they are fumbling catches and dribbling like they have the yips.
We should also mention that Korver is 0-for-3 from the field and does not have a 3-pointer yet. He is due, and that is never good for the opponent.
Third quarter, 2:04, Celtics 67-62: So, we are sort of all over the place here. The Celtics should be running away with this thing, considering they are shooting 11 points better from the field and are plus-five in free throw attempts.
But the Hawks are just hanging around, which is something the Celtics specialize at. The “hanging around” approach was enough for the Celtics to steal a win in Indiana two days ago, so they need to be wary of the Hawks using the same approach on them.
Third quarter, 6:18, Celtics 63-56: Hawks coach Larry Drew made an interesting decision in this game to counter Garnett with Petro, rather than Smith or Horford. Petro, a 7-footer from Paris, is nowhere near Garnett’s equal and has not been especially successful defending Garnett, but at the very least he has been good for three fouls and some muscling down low.
The matchup has helped Smith give Pierce trouble with his size, length and athleticism. Smith went over Pierce rather easily for a lefty (strong hand) hook shot, and on the next possession Horford drilled a jumper to pull Atlanta within three points.
But the Celtics answered the way they do best: with their defense. After Bass hit a baseline jumper off a Garnett pindown screen, the Celtics forced a stop and Lee threw down the dunk to elicit a swift timeout from Atlanta’s bench.
Halftime, Celtics 52-47: This is shaping up to be quite the finish, if the second half goes anything like the first half.
The Celtics couldn’t miss yet still could not shake the pesky Hawks, who overcame Boston shooting nearly 60 percent from the field by taking six more shots and committing four fewer turnovers. There were 11 lead changes, the last coming on a three by Anthony Tolliver to complete the Hawks’ run that wiped out the Celtics’ 10-point lead.
Pierce leads the way for the Celtics’ even scoring attack. Terry drained a triple with four seconds left to make him the second Celtics player in double figures with 10 points, but six other players have made it onto the scoreboard for Boston. The Hawks have gotten points from just six players total.
The Hawks have some ground to make up in the shooting department. They are just 17-for-40 from the field, 5-for-15 from three and 8-for-10 from the line. The Celtics’ numbers from the same areas are 20-for-34, 5-for-9 and 7-for-9.
Second quarter, 5:59, Celtics 41-35: Remember what we said earlier about a big lead not being the best news for either team? Well, the Celtics can thank the Hawks for doing them a solid.
The Celtics dashed out to a 10-point lead thanks to an 8-0 run that included Crawford dishing to himself on a fastbreak — yeah, it was weird — and briefly it appeared the Celtics might start to run away with this. The Hawks came back with dunks by Petro and Smith, and Rivers immediately took a timeout.
Presumably, Rivers wanted to remind his guys not to take too big a lead, because then the Celtics will never be able to win this game.
Second quarter, 8:06, Celtics 35-31: Rivers is not shy about using some of his new guys. Williams and Crawford entered early and were a part of the offense, not just wallflowers. Rivers even implored Williams to be more aggressive dribbling off a screen-and-roll with Wilcox.
Both teams have stayed red hot from beyond the arc, where each team is shooting at least 50 percent. They are 8-for-15 combined. Teague and Pierce are each a perfect 2-for-2, so defenders may not want to leave those guys open.
That one’s free, fellas.
End of first quarter, Celtics 28-26: While the Hawks cooled down, the Celtics never did. Atlanta ends the first quarter shooting 10 for 22, well below the scorching pace it started off with. Boston, meanwhile, kept up its torrid shooting and ended the quarter 11 for 19 from the field.
The Celtics could have been even better if Jason Terry had been able to convert a flip shot at the buzzer. Terry had to rush his scoop as the clock was winding down, and the ball bobbled in and out. Still, we don’t suggest cutting him just yet. The Celtics might need him later on.
First quarter, 2:43, Celtics 22-19: Josh Smith’s name was on everyone’s lips at the trade deadline, which made perfect sense. He is the guy up for free agency soon, after all.
But if you had to pick any player from Atlanta’s frontcourt, you would be best served taking Al Horford. The sixth-year veteran out of Florida is just a complete player, even as he plays out of position at center to accommodate Smith. Horford showed his versatility by hitting a pair of midrange jumpers and tipping in a lob pass from Teague. He is just a nice player who can do everything a big man should be able to do.
First quarter, 7:03, Celtics 12-11: Meet Kevin Garnettovic.
In the spirit of former Celtic Shaquille O’Neal dubbing himself “Shaqovic” during a run of free throw success, off the rationale that Eastern European players are good shooters, Garnett is earning his own shooter’s moniker. For the second time in as many games, Garnett hit a 3-pointer early in the action.
Garnett’s triple came during a furious flurry of offense to begin the game, with both teams shooting better than 60 percent from the field.
7:39 p.m.: If you are the betting type — and we encourage you not to be — you can feel safe putting your money down on whoever gets out to a hot start in this game.
In the last two meetings between these teams, the one that jumped out to a massive lead ended up losing. The Hawks held a 19-point advantage when they hosted the Celtics a few days after the New Year and Boston ended up winning by eight points. Later in January, the Celtics surged to a 27-point lead before the Hawks came back and won going away in overtime.
With that in mind, Celtics coach Doc Rivers may want to start D.J. White, Shavlik Randolph, Jordan Crawford and Terrence Williams. You know, just to give the Celtics a chance.
7:13 p.m.: For a variety of weather-related reasons I know you don’t care about, unfortunately I could not be at the Garden for this one. I will bring you updates the old-fashioned way, if there is an “old-fashioned way” of liveblogging: via the rectangular box on my desk.
Now that the full-disclosure portion of the night is out of the way, the Celtics have a rather big game ahead of them. They can catch the Hawks in the standings with a victory here, while pulling ahead in the all-important head-to-head tiebreaker. In addition, there is the not-insignificant matter of maintaining the psychological boost the Celtics gained with Wednesday’s last-second win over Indiana.
The probable starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: The Celtics have turned into a green machine, churning out wins with regularity as the team makes yet another late-season playoff push.
The Celtics (33-27) head into Friday’s game with a four-game winning streak. They lurk just a single game behind the fifth-place Hawks (34-26) in the Eastern Conference playoff standings and could leapfrog two spots if the Bulls lose their game against the Jazz. (Brooklyn is not out of reach, either. The Nets are technically 1 1/2 games ahead of the Celtics, but a Nets loss and a Celtics win would leave them tied in the loss column.)
The Hawks will not be an easy mark, but the Celtics may be getting them at an opportune time. Atlanta has lost its last three road games and snapped its losing streak with a win over the dreadful Sixers on Wednesday. This game begins a brutal stretch for the Hawks, who face the Celtics, Nets, Heat and Lakers in the next seven days, with two back-to-backs. Perhaps Josh Smith and company can be caught looking ahead Friday.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.