Overtime, :01.3, Celtics 88-86: The crowd is happy now. Smith missed a contested 3, and the Hawks were unable to keep the ball inbounds after tracking down the offensive rebound.
Overtime, :10.1, Celtics 88-86: The fans are unhappy, to say the least. Pierce dribbled down the clock after a defensive stop and was whistled for a hooking violation as he began his move on Smith. It takes some cojones to make that call in that situation. Then again, it also takes cojones to foul out Garnett on an illegal screen.
The NBA should assign the same crew of refs to the playoff series between these two teams. That would be … interesting.
Overtime, :40.4, Celtics 88-86: There was foul No. 6 on Stiemsma. The Celtics play the final 40 seconds with Bass at center with Rondo, Pietrus, Bradley and Pierce.
Overtime, 1:02, Celtics 88-86: That bad news about Garnett is nothing compared to what could be horrible news for the Celtics here. Bass went down in a heap going for a rebound, and Rivers ran over under the hoop where Bass lay. Rivers looked skyward, with a look that said, "Not another injury."
Bass stood up under his own power, which is fortunate for the Celtics. If Bass (or any other Celtics frontcourt player) ends up injured from here on, it pretty much ends the Celtics' slim title hopes.
Overtime, 2:04, Celtics 88-86: Things that would not happen if Garnet were on the floor: Johnson gets to the cup on a screen and roll, forcing the Celtics to help, opening Hinrich for a jumper. Yet that's what happened with Stiemsma playing in place of Garnett.
Overtime, 2:43, Celtics 88-84: Bass came to play in the extra session with the Celtics' first basket and two beastly rebounds, but there was really bad news for the Celtics. Garnett was called for an illegal screen, and that was his sixth foul.
End of regulation, game tied 84-84: The Celtics ran a double-team at Johnson, forcing the ball out of his hands. Johnson passed to Pargo, who missed a desperation 3 with Bradley's hand in his face.
Fourth quarter, :05.8, game tied 84-84: Garnett airballed a fadeaway as the 24-second clock expired and Atlanta grabbed the board, but Rivers really wanted a traveling call. The officials said the shot clock violation occured before the travel.
Fourth quarter, :26.8, game tied 84-84: Bass and Johnson each hit clutch jumpers to knot it up, and Pierce missed his sixth shot of the quarter. Garnett tracked down the carom, and the Celtics took their second-to-last timeout.
Fourth quarter, 1:13, game tied 82-82: The Celtics were totally and utterly gassed. Somehow, Garnett found enough to drain an 18-footer, but the Celtics were just 6-of-23 in the fourth. Their defense managed to force Atlanta into its own 3-for-12 shooting funk, but it's tough to see how the Celtics can continue to hang with a team working with three days rest.
Fourth quarter, 2:02, game tied 80-80: The legs just are not there for Pierce. He was up to 32 minutes in this game and missed his first four shots of the fourth quarter. The Celtics could also have trouble on their hands after Garnett picked up his fifth personal foul. The Celtics' defensive fulcrum will need to be careful in crunch time.
Fourth quarter, 5:52, Hawks 76-73: Atlanta sprinted back into the lead with eight straight points, and neither team seemed particularly happy about it. Pachulia and Smith were getting quite perturbed with Mr. Garnett, with or without Smith's tech.
The Celtics raked the offensive boards, nabbing five in the quarter and getting up to 13 for the game. It may be their best form of offense in a game in which they went cold from the field and cannot seem to get to the foul line.
Fourth quarter, 8:31, Celtics 73-68: Pietrus goes hard to the cup and gets knocked down without a foul. He picked up a foul on an illegal screen by Teague at the other end, leading to a technical on Josh Smith.
This could be a fun seven-game series if it ends up happening.
Fourth quarter, 9:34, Celtics 72-68: Pietrus was slated for a handful of minutes in this game. A little more than three quarters later, he had logged more than 18 minutes and hit two big shots to give the Celtics the lead.
Pietrus' stepback jumper gave the Celtics a 69-68 advantage, and his 3-pointer on the secondary break gave the Celtics a four-point edge. On both shots, the crowd erupted. They were enjoyed Pietrus' gritty showing.
End of third quarter, Hawks 68-67: Remarkably, the Celtics closed within one point by ending the third quarter on a 6-2 run. Rondo assisted on seven of the Celtics' 10 baskets, just enough to make up for his three turnovers.
The player of the third quarter for the Celtics (besides Rondo) was Stiemsma, who hit three jumpers and kept the Celtics afloat during some thin stretches. In more than 16 minutes, Stiemsma had only two fouls heading into the fourth.
Third quarter, 2:28, Hawks 66-61: Rondo may have had 14 assists and eight rebounds with more than two minutes to go in the third quarter, but this was probably his worst performance in a while. "Worst" is a relative term, of course.
Rondo had six turnovers and was just 2-for-7 from the field. It is saying something that Rondo is at the point where 14 assists can be part of a "bad" performance.
Third quarter, 5:39, Hawks 60-55: For the first time, the backcourt of Rondo and Bradley looked inattentive on defense. Rondo was beaten for a backdoor layup that stretched Atlanta's lead to seven points after Garnett had knocked down a jumper to cut the Celtics' deficit to two points.
Halftime, Hawks 48-40: Paul Pierce said a few games ago that rebounding was the Celtics' only weakness. In general, that is true, but the Celtics trailed at halftime in this one despite winning the battle of the glass.
Boston outrebounded Atlanta 25-18 overall and 4-3 on the offensive boards but still trailed by a healthy margin at halftime. The biggest reason is the Celtics' 12 turnovers, with a game-high three turnovers by Rondo.
The Good: Kevin Garnett continued to put up big numbers with 12 points and five rebounds. His strategy of forcing his opponent to shoot long jumpers, which worked so well Tuesday against Chris Bosh, did not work out in the first half of this game. Josh Smith nailed four deep jumpers en route to 12 points in the first half, along with six rebounds. … Brandon Bass was the Celtics' lone scoring option for stretches of the first half, and he came through. Bass his six of his nine field goal attempts for 13 points, which was the highest on the Celtics. He maintained his recent rebounding aggression with five boards in the first half. … Jeff Teague scored 11 points, mostly guarded by Avery Bradley, and seemed to have Bradley's handle fairly well sized up. … Ivan Johnson is fun to watch. He might be one of the few players who consistently generates ferocity like Garnett. He only played eight minutes, but he made them count with four points, four rebounds and two steals.
The Bad: Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson harassed each other, with Pierce going 2-for-7 from the field and Johnson going just 3-for-8.
The So-so: Rondo could not have been happy with his first-half performance, despite seven assists (all in the first quarter).
Second quarter, 2:46, Hawks 43-40: The teams cooled off after the first quarter, mostly because they stopped moving the ball. Atlanta had nine assists in the first quarter but had just one assist on its first seven field goals in the second quarter.
The Celtics had only three assists but had two turnovers. That ratio contributed to their 5-for-15 shooting mark entering the final three minutes of the first half.
Second quarter, 5:57, Hawks 38-35: If Pietrus is feeling ill effects, he did not show it in the pregame interviews or in more than nine minutes of court time. Pietrus faked a 3-pointer and took the ball hard to the rack, drawing a foul from Marvin Williams and tumbling to the court.
The other Celtics quickly came over the help him up, but Pietrus seemed no worse for the wear. He split the free throws.
Second quarter, 8:38, Hawks 32-30: Pietrus had not played since March 23. No big deal. He stepped behind the arc in the corner and drilled his first shot in a game in more than two weeks, giving the Celtics a momentary 28-27 lead.
Allen's absence may force Rivers to get creative with his backcourt. He predicted Pietrus would only play 5 to 10 minutes, but Pietrus was already at nearly seven minutes early in the second quarter. Keyon Dooling share four minutes of time in the backcourt with Bradley.
End of first quarter, Celtics 26-25: Rondo was not happy about not picking up the foul when he missed a tough layup, but Bass cleaned up with a putback dunk to give the Celtics the lead.
To be completely honest, it did not look like Rondo was fouled.
Bass carried the Celtics' second unit with 10 points in the first quarter. He mixed in two dunks with his trademark jumper. Rondo dealt out seven assists, but the Celtics could not have been sloppier with the ball. They committed six turnovers while the Hawks did not turn the ball over until Teague made a bad pass out of bounds with 35.9 seconds left in the quarter.
First quarter, 2:59, Hawks 23-18: Mickael Pietrus checked in to a standing ovation from the Garden crowd. Pietrus is expected to play limited minutes, but he is part of what could be a tough defensive unit. He was paired with Sasha Pavlovic, probably the Celtics' two best wing defenders, with Rondo running the point and Stiemsma on the back line.
Bass, the more offensive-minded member of that unit, burst down the lane for a two-handed dunk that brought a roar from the crowd.
First quarter, 5:24, Hawks 17-14: Josh Smith is maligned for settling for outside jump shots, but the 6-foot-9 athletic forward knocked down three such shots in the early going to help Atlanta build a quick nine-point lead.
The Celtics continued their hot shooting from Tuesday's win over Miami, but they may have forgotten that defense is their calling card. Atlanta shot 62 percent (8-for-13) in the opening 6:36.
7:28 p.m.: Mickael Pietrus was in good spirits in the locker room before the game, declaring that he could be back "soon." Asked if he could be back on the bench, just to watch, Pietrus said, "Not [Wednesday]."
He was not exactly lying.
Pietrus will not be merely watching Wednesday against the Hawks. He will be playing, albeit in limited minutes, in his return from a concussion sustained late last month in Philadelphia.
Not all the pregame news was positive for the Celtics. Ray Allen's ankle has swollen up again, coach Doc Rivers said, and Allen will miss this game. Allen is expected to travel with the team for its back-to-back-to-back set, which begins Friday in Toronto.
The probable starting lineups appear below.
8 a.m. ET: Fresh off a resounding victory over the vaunted Miami Heat, the Celtics will have to dial it back Wednesday, when the opponent will merely be their potential first-round playoff opponent.
The fifth-seeded Hawks (34-23) visit the TD Garden to take on the Celtics (33-24) in what looks like a possible first-round matchup. The Hawks are nearly as hot as the Celtics, having won seven of their last 10 games and three straight overall. The Hawks will also be well-rested. They have not played a game since Saturday.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m.
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