By Matt Winkeljohn, for NBA.com
THE FACTS: As the third quarter ticked away Tuesday in Atlanta, there was -- at least for the Hawks and their fans -- a hauntingly familiar feeling as the Celtics went white hot and the home team went cold. Boston scored the last 10 points of the period to pull within two, yet the Hawks fashioned a very different ending in the fourth quarter.
Al Horford -- who didn't play in Games 1, 2 or 3 -- finished a stout performance by making a heavily-contested six-foot hook shot over Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass for an 87-83 lead with 1:34 left. The Hawks then survived a Paul Pierce 3-pointer and an amazing steal by Rajon Rondo with just under 10 seconds left for an 87-86 win.
That won't make up for the Hawks' 87-80 Game 2 loss at home in which Atlanta lost a 12-point third quarter lead in a game for which Rondo was suspended, but Atlanta staved off elimination and will play Game 6 in Boston on Thursday.
Horford, who played in Sunday's Game 4 in Boston for the first time since tearing a pectoral muscle in early January, started and while he made his presence felt in the first half with six rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and a steal, he scored just two points.
He poured in 17 in the second half, though, and despite Atlanta coach Larry Drew saying before the game that he anticipated limiting Horford's playing time, the All-Star center played 41 minutes and was the game's high scorer and second-leading rebounder with 11. He also had three assists, three steals and three blocked shots.
The teams were tied at 40 at halftime, and the Hawks took off in the third quarter as Horford scored 11 points in the period. His free throw with 2:54 left gave Atlanta a 66-54 lead, but Atlanta did not get off a single shot attempt in the final 2:53 as the Hawks had a shot clock violation and three more turnovers off bad passes while the Celtics drew within 66-64 by the end of the quarter.
There were two ties and three lead changes in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta went ahead for good when Jeff Teague drove into traffic and made a short pass to Horford for a dunk with 2:20 left. That made it 85-83, and Josh Smith soon grabbed the last of his 16 rebounds moments later when Garnett missed.
Horford's hook shot followed with less than one second on the shot clock as he scored eight of Atlanta's final 14 points.
Pierce missed a layup, but added a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left to close within 87-86. After Teague missed a 3-pointer, Rondo rebounded long, and passed ahead to Pierce who missed a 20-footer fairly early in the shot clock. The Hawks rebounded, and Boston stopped the clock with 10.9 seconds left by fouling.
Atlanta took two timeouts in trying to inbound in front of the Boston bench, and still Rondo somehow managed to reach down and grab Smith's attempted bounce pass to Joe Johnson when the Hawks finally did trigger a play.
With just under 10 seconds left in the game, Rondo broke down the left sideline.
Horford, of all people, harassed the quick point guard as he dribbled in front of the Atlanta bench, and when Rondo turned back to try to pass to Garnett, Smith tipped the ball away and time expired before the ball rolled out of bounds.
Every Atlanta starter had at least 13 points. Teague had 16, Williams and Johnson 15, and Smith 13. Pierce and Garnett led Boston with 16 points each, Allen had 15 off the bench, and Bass scored 14.
QUOTABLE: "I was tired a little bit, but right now I feel fine. Maybe it's the adrenaline . . . and (Wednesday) it will be a different story. You're fighting for your life out there. I wanted to bring energy to the team tonight. Our backs are against the wall. [On the last play] the whole thing was to make [Rondo] pass the ball; I crowded him [toward the sideline] as much as I could, and Josh made a great play to get the deflection."
QUOTABLE II: "I tried to make a play, but got caught on the [sideline]. Give Al credit . . . Al makes a big difference. He can guard anybody on the court."
QUOTABLE III: "My heart was racing 100 miles an hour on the last sequence. . . . We didn't make a smart play inbounding the ball, but I'm glad Josh had the presence of mind to on the last play to step up on Rondo when he came flying up the court (right after the steal). We were forced into a switch, and Al took the ball. Rondo tried to turn the corner, but Al force him back and then Josh deflected the (pass)."
-- Hawks coach Larry Drew
TURNING POINT: Given how miserable the Hawks were in losing Game 4 101-79 and knowing they were down 3-1 in the series, they might have been expected to pack it in upon falling behind 28-18 in the middle of the second quarter as they were miserable offensively. At one point, guard Kirk Hinrich was 3-for-4 off the bench but the rest of the Hawks were a combined 5-for-24.
Atlanta kept chipping away, though, and closed the period 22-12 and made 3-point shots on their final four possessions of the half. Two were made by Marvin Williams when he was left alone on the weakside, and then Joe Johnson and Teague made long balls. Rondo close the half with a buzzer-beating trey of his own to knot the score at 40-all.
Williams had 15 points in a starting role after scoring 16 total in the first four games of the series.
QUOTABLE IV: "Al Horford was terrific tonight. Both he and Williams made a big difference. ... I wish we had gone down the middle of the floor [on the last play] instead of the sideline, especially with a big on you. ... and I was hoping that (Rondo) would attack the basket, but he lost control of the ball and that blew up any chance that we had."
-- Celtics coach Doc Rivers
HOT: Horford made 7-of-10 shots in the second half, when the Hawks as a team made 19-of-31 (61.3 percent). ... Rondo had 10 of his 12 assists in the second half. . . . Allen has made 21-of-31 shots in three games after missing the first two games of the series (and more than two weeks before that) with bone spurs in his ankles. He made 5-of-10 Tuesday for 15 points, or six more than the entire Atlanta bench.
NOT: The Hawks made just 6-of-21 shots (28.6 percent) in the first quarter, when Josh Smith missed all seven of his tries. He missed two dunks Tuesday. He made 6-of-9 the rest of the way. ... Pierce made just 1-of-7 shots in the second and third quarters.
GOOD MOVE: Drew's decision to move Johnson to shooting guard in favor of Hinrich, and move Williams to small forward ultimately paid off with a win. It also meant that Boston shooting guard Avery Bradley played just 18:04 as a starter. At 6-feet-2, he's about four inches shorter than Johnson so the 6-5 Allen (29:56) and 6-6 Mickael Pietrus (14:31) chewed up more minutes (although Pietrus didn't spend a lot of time on Johnson.)
NOTABLE: Drew said that he anticipates every Atlanta player other than backup center Zaza Pachulia (sprained left foot) to be available for Game 6. ... Center Jason Collins started the first four games of the series for Atlanta, but played just 10 seconds Tuesday. In fact, Erick Dampier played 7:54 in the post for the Hawks, and had two points and two rebounds.
UP NEXT: Thursday @ Celtics, Saturday @ Hawks if necessary.