Ford Keys to the Game: Celtics 79, Hawks 76

Ford Keys to the Game

Celtics 79, Hawks 76

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

Kevin Garnett, Ivan Johnson

Kevin Garnett does all he can to establish post position against Ivan Johnson of the Hawks.
Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

It doesn’t matter how you win, all that matters is that you do win, right?

The Celtics can live by that sentence tonight.

Boston’s 79-76 victory over the Hawks Monday night in Atlanta was by far the ugliest game of the season. Somehow, though, the C’s found a way to pull it out in the end. They managed to grab the win by locating their half-court offense, even if it was only for only a four-minute stretch of the fourth quarter.

It all began with a Rajon Rondo drive from the left wing down the right side of the lane that finished in an unbelievable bank shot off the top of the glass. On his way from the top of the key to the block, Rondo passed on dishing to Brandon Bass for a jumper from the top of the key and instead opted for his own layup. The next time down the floor he didn’t pass on Bass, he passed to Bass.

In almost a mirror image of the previous play , Rondo drove toward the rim from the right wing down the left side of the lane and saw Bass wide-open near the top of the key yet again. He dropped a pass off to his power forward and the big man cashed in on it. Bass hit a 19-footer to put the C’s ahead 64-58 with 6:18 remaining in the game.

Considering the way this game was going, a six-point lead felt like a 20-point lead. Interestingly enough, Boston almost turned that six-point lead into a 20-point lead in the following minutes.

Ray Allen drilled a 3-pointer off of a Rondo pass on Boston’s next possession to put the C’s ahead by nine, and less than 30 seconds later Mickael Pietrus tacked another trey on to bump the lead up to 12. After a missed jumper from Jeff Teague on Atlanta’s next possession, Rondo found Allen yet again, this time from the top of the key, for another 3-pointer.

Those three consecutive shots from downtown put Boston ahead by 15 points with 4:28 remaining and that was enough padding to help the Celtics sneak out of Atlanta with a monumental victory. The Hawks had an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds but Teague’s 3-pointer from the right wing drew nothing but air.

Sometimes you have to win ugly in this league, and tonight was certainly a case of such for the Celtics. They didn’t play their best ball, but they found a way to grind out the win and crept another step closer to the Hawks in the Eastern Conference standings. The two teams are now separated by just one game in the loss column, with Atlanta barely clinging onto the sixth seed.

Key Box Score Line

Rajon Rondo pushed a triple-double tonight but did so in a way that he hadn’t yet this season. Instead of the typical points-rebounds-assists triple-double, Rondo was within striking distance of a points-assists-steals triple-double.

Rondo finished tonight’s game with 10 points, 13 dimes and six steals against the Atlanta Hawks, helping Boston up its record to 3-3 on this current eight-game road trip. His six steals were one more than the entire Hawks team grabbed on the night and his 13 dimes were five more than any other player in the game.

Although Rondo committed four turnovers, his solid plays outshined the ugly ones. As you already know by reading the piece above, this contest wasn’t exactly pleasing on the eyes. Rondo’s box score? Now that’s a different story. Take a look for yourself:

Box Score Nuggets

  • Paul Pierce finished with five fouls, nearly fouling out of his second consecutive game.
  • Ray Allen scored a team-high 19 points while making just five field goals and attempting just nine.
  • In contrast to Allen, Josh Smith scored 10 points while making five field goals and attempting 20.
  • Joe Johnson led the game with 25 points.
  • Both teams committed 17 turnovers.
  • Neither team scored more than 20 points in any of the first three quarters, but then both scored at least 25 in the fourth.
  • Rajon Rondo led the game in both assists (13) and steals (six).
  • Rondo's six steals were one more than the entire Hawks team logged.
  • The two teams' benches combined to score just 21 points.
  • Brandon Bass was the only Celtics starter not to score in double-figures, but he did grab a team-high 10 boards.
  • Zaza Pachulia finished with a big double-double of 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
  • Mickael Pietrus scored nine points off the bench to lead all reserves and also chipped in six rebounds.
  • The Celtics shot 39.2 percent from the floor and the Hawks shot 38.7 percent from the floor.
  • Allen shot 4-of-6 form downtown and Johnson shot 4-of-5 from downtown.
  • Greg Stiemsma blocked a game-high four shots in exactly 19 minutes of action.
  • Johnson committed a game-high seven turnovers.
  • Rondo and Pierce both shot 4-of-14 from the field.
  • There were only 46 total points scored in the paint by both teams.

Quote of the Night

Paul Pierce on tonight's game: "You have to be mentally tough in these kinds of games, especially when you’ve been on the road this long."