Celtics 92, Hawks 97
Fresh off clinching the Atlantic Division title on Wednesday night, the Celtics knew coming into Friday night’s game that the outcome may not be favorable, as Doc Rivers sat down five of his main rotation players.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett sat out for rest, while Rajon Rondo (back), Mickael Pietrus (knee) and Ray Allen (ankle) were all nursing injuries. So the Celtics started a unit of Keyon Dooling, Avery Bradley, Sasha Pavlovic, Brandon Bass and Greg Stiemsma.
Despite being ranked one seed above them in the standings Friday afternoon, the Boston Celtics stood a game behind the Atlanta Hawks in the loss column Friday afternoon, so the 97-92 loss could very well dictate who gets home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs should these teams collide again in the opening round. And there’s a good chance these two teams could find themselves matched up when the postseason begins at the end of April.
The Celtics, despite playing wildly shorthanded, put up a valiant effort Friday night, and they were within a point with just over two minutes to play. It was 87-86 Atlanta with 2:09 on the clock, but Hawks star Joe Johnson dropped five of his game-high 30 points over the next two possessions to effectively ice the game.
The Hawks hit six of their first nine shots, and quickly went up 16-7 to start the game. Their offense didn’t let up either. While both teams shot over 60% in the first half, the Hawks got to the free throw line while the Celtics settled for jumpers. The result: Atlanta enjoyed a nine-point lead throughout most of the game.
Key Box Score Line
Avery Bradley has had an incredible month, and he established a new career high with 28 points tonight. He was cooking early, scoring 12 first-quarter points on 6/10 shooting, and added 11 more in the second quarter. But he had just five points over the rest of the night.
Bradley dominated the ball at times, working the pick and roll for open jumpers, but the one downside would be that the offense stagnated and sputtered while Bradley seemed to be thinking about scoring more than distributing the basketball. Then again, the Celtics didn’t exactly have a full compliment of offensive weapons on the floor either, so riding Bradley for scoring punch was probably the best move.
Bradley keyed 13-2 Boston run to draw within one point before end of the quarter and keep the game close, as the C’s outscored Hawks 22-16 in the period.
You can't argue this: Bradley is showing an array of offensive moves that proves he a legitimate NBA scorer, and his arrival couldn’t have come at a better time.
Box Score Nuggets
- The Celtics won the turnover battle, committing only 12 of them to Atlanta's 19.
- Steals had a lot to do with the turnover battle, as the Celtics came up with 12 swipes. Bradley grabbed four of them himself.
- The Celtics posted 18 assists, but no Celtics player dealt more than three himself.
- The Celtics were the victims of seven blocked shots, while blocking just one of their own.
- Signed officially on Friday afternoon, Sean Williams wore #56, playing just 3:27 in his first game with the Celtics
- Marquis Daniels grabbed a team-high eight rebounds while coming off the bench. He was also blocked three times.
- Longtime NBA vet Tracy McGrady had five turnovers in under 15 minutes of play.
- Greg Stiemsma played under 10 minutes despite starting the game. Doc Rivers said after the game that he didn't like the way he was running and he felt that resting him would be the prudent move.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on tonight's game: “We didn’t win the game and that was our goal. We had a lot of opportunities. A lot of guys did a lot of good things and that has to help their confidence. That has to help our team in the long run.”