Atlanta took complete control of this one after intermission with a 23-4 run. Although Boston got back into it in the fourth, the hosts never lost the lead and finished the game on a 15-9 run.
The two teams will have just two days before they renew acquaintances on Monday at TD Garden. Prior to that, the C's visit Toronto on Sunday afternoon in the finale of a three-game road trip. We will be following all the action in that one so check back for all the in-game analysis.
Fourth quarter, 52.5 seconds, Hawks 91-82: There's the dagger as Jamal Crawford hits a long 3-pointer to just about end things here in Atlanta.
For all the C's did to cut into the Hawks' big lead, they played some sloppy basketball down the stretch. There were too many missed free throws, poor rebounding and a bad turnover by Paul Pierce, who tried to force the issue and threw the ball away moments ago.
Fourth quarter, 1:47, Hawks 88-82: That old bugaboo, the defensive glass, kills the Celtics here late as Atlanta gets multiple chances before Jamal Crawford hits a free throw.
Fourth quarter, 2:40, Hawks 87-82: Mike Bibby gets an almost uncontested runner to make it a six-point game and Rajon Rondo makes just one of two free throws on the other end.
The Celts are just 13-of-20 from the line.
Fourth quarter, 3:34, Hawks 85-79: Atlanta has weathered the storm a bit and still has a great chance to close this one out with a few defensive stops.
Fourth quarter, 4:00, Hawks 83-79: That was three straight missed free throws by Paul Pierce. Not what you want to see down the stretch.
Fourth quarter, 4:50, Hawks 81-76: Mike Bibby hits a big 3-pointer to break a 9-0 Celtics run.
Fourth quarter, 5:40, Hawks 78-74: Going back to the third quarter, this is a 21-10 burst for Boston, which now has all five starters in double figures.
The Hawks have lost some late leads this season and Boston is coming off a win in which it erased an 11-point deficit in the final eight minutes, and a two-point deficit in the final 0.6 seconds.
A decided edge to the C's in late-game situations.
Fourth quarter, 6:03, Hawks 78-74: Suddenly the Celts are on a 7-0 run, and again, this game takes the same shape as the one Boston played Wednesday in Miami.
Nobody other than Jamal Crawford has scored for Atlanta in the fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter, 6:35, Hawks 78-70: Give Tommy Heinsohn some credit for saying at halftime that the Celtics could not let Jamal Crawford going, because he might not stop.
Crawford is going now. He just made an improbable shot from the corner while being fouled and hits the free throw for a four-point play. Crawford has 12 of his 14 points in the second half.
Fourth quarter, 7:40, Hawks 74-65: Ray Allen buries a big 3-pointer but Jamal Crawford answers with a jumper for Atlanta.
Fourth quarter, 8:40, Hawks 72-62: All five Boston starters have made exactly four baskets. Just thought that was interesting.
Fourth quarter, 8:51, Hawks 72-62: Just nothing going to the hoop here for the Celts, who continue to take perimeter shots which stopped going down long ago.
Boston has taken four shots in the fourth quarter, making one, and each has come from at least 17 feet out.
End of third quarter, Hawks 68-60: Simply put, there was one basketball team on the court in the third quarter, and it was not wearing green.
That is, until the last minute when Boston scored seven straight points to give itself a shot here in the fourth.
But holy cow, was that a demolition.
Atlanta outscored the visitors 23-4 in a span of eight-plus minutes of the quarter. It made 13-of-15 shots in one stretch. And the C's were stone cold.
This is somewhat reminiscent of Wednesday in Miami, where the Celtics controlled things until a point of the third quarter, when it all fell apart. We all know how that game ended, but you get the feeling they might be up against it tonight if the 3's don't fall like they did in the first half.
Third quarter, 2:25, Hawks 62-53: Boston has missed all four of its 3-pointers in a miserable third quarter after making 7-of-12 in the first 24 minutes.
Third quarter, 3:46, Hawks 59-53: As Paul Pierce nearly loses the ball after he falls to the floor, the Celtics are mired in a miserable offensive stretch.
They have just one field goal — a jumper by Rasheed Wallace — in the last 6 minutes, 14 seconds.
And just like Wednesday in Miami when Boston began to struggle a bit after the break, it has completely abandoned Kendrick Perkins. Perk had nine points in the first half but has taken just one shot in the third quarter, and it was blocked by Josh Smith.
Third quarter, 5:35, Hawks 59-51: It's all Atlanta here in the third. The Hawks have made seven of their last nine shots and have limited the Celtics to just two free throws in the last four-plus minutes.
A handful of hoops by the Hawks this quarter have come with literally no defenders in sight. Josh Smith converted a reverse alley-oop with Rasheed Wallace just staring at him about six feet away, and Joe Johnson had time to tie his shoes and call home before making a 3-pointer moments ago.
Third quarter, 7:15, Hawks 54-49: This game was decidedly lackluster in the first half but the intensity has been turned on here in the third quarter.
There have already been some hard fouls and bodies on the floor, and the pace has picked up a bit. Much of that has been dictated by Atlanta, which is much more aggressive than it was early on.
Third quarter, 8:14, Hawks 52-49 : The Hawks are red-hot out of the break, making four straight shots after an early miss and burying three 3-pointers.
Atlanta had just one 3-pointer at the break.
Rajon Rondo is shaken up in a collision with Mike Bibby, and Doc Rivers is livid a foul was not called. Rondo's turnover led to a dunk on the other end and it's a 7-0 run for the hosts.
Third quarter, 10:30, Celtics 47-42: We are underway in the second half and the Hawks already cut their deficit in half with a 3-pointer by Marvin Williams.
Williams leads all scorers with 11 points.
Halftime, Celtics 45-39: As great as that pass was by Rajon Rondo on the Celtics' last possession of the half, the catch by Kendrick Perkins was even better.
It was a missile in the lane ticketed for press row, but Perkins pulled it in and ended up converting one of two free throws when he was fouled.
A quality second quarter for Boston, which is making a living beyond the arc. It is 7-of-12 from long range.
Back in a bit for the second half.
Second quarter, 1:05, Celtics 41-39: Josh Smith's entire torso appeared to be above the rim on an alley-oop moments ago.
Second quarter, 2:05, Celtics 41-37: Five different Celtics have hit at least one 3-pointer and the team is 6-of-10 overall from out there.
The Hawks, meanwhile, are just 1-of-3 from the arc.
Second quarter, 2:39, Celtics 41-35: Not to keep talking up Eddie House as if I was his agent, but he deserves some credit for keeping alive a ball that was headed out, leading to a dunk by Rasheed Wallace.
It was reminiscent in a way (not nearly as dramatic) of the save he made on a play a few weeks ago that resulted in a huge slam for Tony Allen.
The Wallace dunk was part of an 11-4 run by the Celts.
Second quarter, 5:55, Celtics 30-29: Although he is not in the game at this moment, there's a little Brian Scalabrine stat that needs to be passed on.
I know you all love him but you won't want to see this: Scal has made just one of his last 19 shots from the floor over a span of nine games. His offense is not always needed but that is a disgusting number.
Second quarter, 6:56, Celtics 28-25: The 3-pointer has been huge so far for the Celtics.
My man Eddie House, whose turnover-less streak remains intact, gets the roll on a 3-pointer to make Boston 5-of-9 from the arc.
Second quarter, 8:09, Celtics 25-23: Another open opportunity goes for naught as Glen Davis clangs one off the iron from about 12 feet. Of course, as I type this, Rajon Rondo hits his second 3-pointer of the night.
It's the first time Rondo has made two from the arc in a regular season game since last Nov. 21, 2008.
Second quarter, 9:41, Hawks 23-21: The Celtics continue to find good looks that are not going down.
Rajon Rondo has missed a pair of layups, Ray Allen a couple of open 3's and Eddie House just bricked a somewhat open 19-footer.
Boston is now 8-of-24 from the floor.
Second quarter, 11:15, 19-19: Eddie House is in for the Celts after missing a game with a stomach bug.
House has quietly amassed a very impressive streak of 122-plus minutes without a turnover. Sure, he doesn't handle the ball all too often, but it's hard to not find some way to make a mistake in such a span.
House quickly gets himself to the line for two free throws seconds into the quarter.
End of first quarter, Hawks 19-17: A very even first 12 minutes in a lot of categories, but the Hawks gain a bit of momentum with a Joe Johnson hoop and an emphatic block by Al Horford.
Still, it's the Celts who look a bit more fluid on the offensive end. Atlanta likes to do a lot of clear-outs and let guys like Johnson and Josh Smith do their thing. Often effective but not always the best looking.
Boston has generated a few more good looks, but is just 7-of-20 from the floor.
First quarter, 2:38, 15-15: This has been a game of runs so far. After the Hawks scored nine straight the Celtics went on a 10-0 run, which was followed by a 5-0 burst by the hosts.
It took me a few possessions to be reminded how annoying the sound system and PA announcements are in Philips Arena, particularly when the Celts have the ball and the fans need to be told by a taped voice to chant "Defense" over and over.
The painful portions of the NBA.
First quarter, 4:37, Celtics 12-11: After the Hawks score nine straight points and the Celts look lost on offense, Boston scores seven in a span of seconds to reclaim the lead.
The C's had gone nearly three minutes without a point before the outburst. They have cashed in on the break a few times, while the Hawks, normally one of the better transition teams in the league, are still somewhat stagnant on the offensive end.
Still some empty seats at Philips Arena, which has been a difficult place for the Green in the past.
First quarter, 7:31, Celtics 5-4: Rajon Rondo hits his fourth 3-pointer of the season, an unlikely make in an otherwise cold-shooting start.
Both teams are 2-for-7 from the floor early on. The Hawks have little to no movement on the offensive end.
First quarter, 9:54, 2-2: A great up-and-under by Kendrick Perkins gets the Celtics on the board.
First quarter, 11:55, 0-0: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace and Kendrick Perkins are out there for the Celtics.
Atlanta goes with Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and Al Horford.
The Wallace-Smith matchup is a great one to watch. A wiley, yet edgy, veteran against an athletic upstart who is not afraid to talk smack himself. Should be fun to watch.
8:00 p.m.: The real-feel temperature in Atlanta right now is in single digits. It will be interesting to see how many Atlantans venture out for a game in what we see as beach weather.
At the very least, it should be hot inside Philips Arena.
Remember, this is an ESPN game, so expect a little more pregame chatter and plenty of commercials.
7:44 p.m.: We just got word that Tony Allen is out tonight with the stomach bug that is crawling through the Celtics' system.
It's the same illness that bothered Kendrick Perkins and kept Eddie House out Wednesday. House is back. Paul Pierce has also been under the weather but will play.
Allen will be missed, particularly on the defensive end marking guys like Joe Johnson and maybe even Marvin Williams from time to time.
Back in a bit with starting lineups.
4:37 p.m.: What can they Celtics do for an encore to Wednesday's thrilling win at Miami? We will find out in chilly Atlanta when the Green continue a three-game road trip against the dangerous Hawks.
It'll be interesting to see if there is any letdown for the C's after the way they opened the trip Wednesday in Miami. You've all seen it by now — Rajon Rondo taking an alley-oop pass from Paul Pierce with 0.6 seconds left to force overtime, and Boston winning in the extra session to improve to 14-4 on the road.
Rondo and Pierce had returned for that game from hamstring and knee ailments, respectively, and Eddie House hopes to be back in Atlanta following a one-game layoff to battle the flu.
The high temperature in Atlanta today may not reach 30 degrees, and the Hawks had been just as cold of late, dropping a season-high four straight before a victory over the pathetic New Jersey Nets on Wednesday.
Jamal Crawford scored 29 points off the bench for Atlanta, which shot 57.3 percent from the floor to get back into the win column.
Crawford was one of six Hawks in double figures when they knocked off Boston in TD Garden back in early November. The Celtics were outrebounded in that one, 47-29.
Check back later for any updates and be sure to follow along as the C's look to stay hot on the road.
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