Ford Keys to the Game

Hawks 86, Celtics 88

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce feeds off of the crowd after Boston forces a turnover with 1.3 seconds remaining in overtime to seal a win over Atlanta.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

No one seemed to know how the Boston Celtics made it to overtime against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, but no one on Boston’s side really cared. All those people knew was that the team gave itself a chance to pull off an improbable victory.

The Celtics headed into overtime with plenty of reasons to lose. They weren’t supposed to have the energy to compete with a well-rested Hawks team and their captain, Paul Pierce, was having a horrible shooting night. Then Boston lost its only two centers, Kevin Garnett and Greg Stiemsma, thanks to some phantom calls that disqualified the two big men.

Still, the Celtics scrapped, clawed and played with a confidence that brews wins at this time of the year. Boston’s players were hell-bent on overcoming the odds, no matter how many whistles and misfortunes went against them.

Doc Rivers chose to go to a small lineup after both of his centers fouled out of the game. Pierce and Brandon Bass played at power forward and center, respectively, while Mickael Pietrus handled the small forward duties. That frontcourt proved to be exactly what the Celtics needed to pull out the victory.

Pietrus forced Johnson into a turnover and an 0-for-3 shooting performance in overtime. Likewise, Pierce shut down Smith, highlighted by the final offensive possession of the game for Atlanta.

Trailing 88-86 with 10.1 seconds left on the clock, the Hawks drew up a play to get a look for their best player, Joe Johnson.

Boston made the decision that it was not going to allow Johnson to win the game for the Hawks. The C’s trapped him on the final possession of regulation and forced Jannero Pargo into a missed 3-pointer. On this possession, the plan was exactly the game.

Johnson took the inbounds pass along the left sideline and immediately drove along the baseline on Pietrus. Bass, however, was waiting on that baseline for the double-team. With no opening for a shot, Johnson passed the ball out to Josh Smith, who was standing behind the 3-point line on the right wing. Smith went on to clank his attempt from downtown thanks to a nice challenge by Rajon Rondo.

Interestingly, Johnson actually came down with the offensive rebound over in front of Boston’s bench with about 2.8 seconds left on the clock. However, another double-team by Pietrus and Pierce forced Johnson to dribble the ball off his foot and out of bounds.

With 1.3 seconds remaining on the clock, all Boston needed to do was inbound the basketball and the game was over. Rondo took the inbound pass and heaved the ball into the air as time expired, and with that, Boston had notched its most improbable win of the season.

Key Box Score Line

When you notch a triple-double, you secure a spot in our Key Box Score Line section.

If you haven’t heard, Rajon Rondo does that pretty often.

Rondo recorded the 19th triple-double of his career and sixth of his season. Those six triple-doubles are the most in the NBA in 2011-12. Rondo finished tonight’s overtime thriller with 10 points, 10 rebounds and a whopping 20 assists. His 20 assists tied his season high total, which was also recorded on March 4 against New York.

The numbers speak for themselves, but let’s give you some more details. Rondo’s 20 assists equaled the amount that Atlanta totaled as a team. His 10 rebounds were more than 25 percent of the amount the Hawks grabbed as a team on the night (39). While Rondo shot poorly from the field, his 4-of-4 performance from the free-throw line helped him reach double-figures in scoring.

As Doc Rivers said, his point guard knew the game was on the line in the fourth quarter and overtime, and he did not want to watch the action from the bench.

“Rondo was sensational; didn’t want to come out,” said Rivers. “He said, ‘Because we’ve got tomorrow off, let me just go.’ “

Rivers obliged Rondo’s request, and that may have been what led the Celtics to an another victory.

Box Score Nuggets

  • The teams combined for only six points in the five minutes of overtime. Atlanta scored only two points in the extra session.
  • Each team had two players score at least 20 points, with Kevin Garnett (22 points) and Brandon Bass (21 points) leading the way for Boston, and Jeff Teague (21 points) and Josh Smith (20 points) leading the Hawks.
  • Boston's 23 turnovers led to 23 points for Atlanta.
  • Garnett and Greg Stiemsma each fouled out of the game.
  • While those two Celtics fouled out, not a single Atlanta player was whistled for more than three fouls.
  • Garnett led the game in scoring (22 points) and rebounds (12 rebounds).
  • Rajon Rondo recorded a triple-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds and 20 assists.
  • Rondo's 20 assists equaled the total of Atlanta's team.
  • Bass logged a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Four Celtics attempted at least 16 shots, while only three Hawks attempted at least 12.
  • Boston outrebounded Atlanta by a count of 56-39, including 15 offensive boards.
  • The nine reserves who appeared in the game totaled just one assist. Sasha Pavlovic accounted for that lone helper.
  • Both teams shot less than 42 percent in the game.
  • Rondo and Smith led the game in turnovers with six apiece.
  • In Mickael Pietrus' first game back after a 10-game absence, he recorded eight points and six rebounds.
  • Stiemsma finished the game with six points and eight rebounds.
  • Both teams finished with three blocks.
  • Joe Johnson finished with just 14 points on 5-of-17 shooting with three rebounds and four assists.
  • Boston's largest lead of the game, five points, was just three points more than the final margin.
  • Three players on each team played at least 40 minutes.
  • Willie Green and Jannero Pargo each shot 0-for-4 off the bench for the Hawks.

Quote of the Night

Doc Rivers on the carryover from Tuesday night's offensive shootout in Miami: "The byproduct of having a great offensive night is that the next night you show that you think you're a great offensive team, and that's how I felt in the first quarter. [My players] were like, 'Alright, tonight we're going to outscore you.' "