Ugly is probably the only way to describe the first half of the Celtics first visit to Philips Arena this season. The two teams combined to score 64 points making only 27 of 78 shots from the field. Each team went to the free throw line 4 times in the first 24 minutes.
What the game lacked in the first half, the two squads more than made up for it in the second. Ever since the Hawks won three from the Celtics in the playoffs a few years back, chipiness has become an integral part of the rivalry. And neither squad disappointed the expectations of the divided arena crowd.
A flagrant foul called on Celtics forward Brandon Bass followed by a thundering dunk by Hawks guard Jeff Teague over Ray Allen, that included a demonstrative yell, raised the level of physical play. Teague was whistled for his act but the mood of the game had already shifted. During the play, an errant elbow struck Hawks center Zaza Pachulia producing a bright red stream of blood down his face.
The Hawks led 47-40 when Pachulia headed to the locker room for treatment. Pachulia returned to start the fourth quarter only to find the lead had dwindled to 1. On the first points of the period Boston took the lead and never looked back.
Boston extended the lead to a high of 15 points with just under 3 minutes to play in the fourth. Over the next minute and 55 seconds the Hawks went on an 8-0 run drawing within 4 pts on a triple by Joe Johnson. As the game hung in the balance, the veteran leadership of the Celtics took over. A missed three point shot by Josh Smith and a pick of Joe Johnson’s pocket by Rajon Rondo erased 17 valuable seconds off the clock. In the final 24.0 seconds, the Celtics went to the line three times making good on 4 of 6 attempts.
Joe Johnson gave the Hawks life with a three to narrow the lead to 1. A quick foul sent Boston’s Ray Allen to the line where the nearly automatic guard calmly knocked down both freebies. Trailing by three the Hawks Teague launched the potentially game tying shot in front of Celtics Coach Doc Rivers. The shot hit nothing but the void behind the basket sinking the Hawks bid for a comeback.
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