Celtics 87, Hawks 80
Josh Smith has been a thorn in the side of the Boston Celtics over the first two games of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup. He has been explosive on offense and dominant on the glass.
When the big man went down with 4:20 remaining in Game 2, the Atlanta Hawks lost both of those ever-important qualities.
Smith sprained his left knee at the 4:20 mark of the fourth and promptly made his way back to the locker room for the remainder of the game. Boston held onto just a two-point lead when he walked off of the court, but thanks to his absence, that lead slowly grew in the final minutes.
Atlanta’s offense completely fell apart without Smith on the court. His post-up game is one of the Hawks’ greatest assets on offense. It puts pressure on the opposition because at any moment the 6-foot-9 forward can blow by his defender and force a defensive rotation, which often leads to open jumpers for his teammates. Without Smith, the Hawks were forced to rely on one-on-one play, and it simply did not work.
The Hawks managed to score just 14 points and shot a woeful 21.1 percent from the floor in the final period. They scored only eight points over the final 4:20 while Smith was in the locker room, and two of those points came via a gimme layup in the final seconds of the game.
While Atlanta was struggling to put the ball through the basket, Boston was scoring just enough to build up a comfortable lead. Paul Pierce scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, including nine after Smith went out, to help the C’s pull ahead by as many as nine points. They went on to win by seven and tied this series up at 1-1.
Key Box Score Line
With half of the Big Four not playing in tonight’s game, everyone knew the Celtics would need a superb performance from Paul Pierce in order to contend for a win. Boy, did he deliver.
Pierce was unstoppable in Game 2, scoring Boston’s first nine points and finishing with game highs of 36 points and 14 rebounds. His offensive repertoire was in full swing throughout the game as he chucked up 26 shots from the field. He got to the basket for several buckets in the paint and excelled with his mid-range game. Pierce was so unstoppable that the Hawks were forced to send him to the line for a game-high 13 free throw attempts, which was just seven less than Atlanta’s entire team attempted on the night.
This was vintage Pierce. This was vintage Captain. This was a performance Boston needed in order to keep its head above water in this best-of-seven series.
Box Score Nuggets
- Both teams dished out 14 assists.
- Paul Pierce led the game in both scoring (36 points) and rebounding (14 boards).
- Boston outrebounded Atlanta by a count of 45-40.
- Three players, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, tied for the game-high in assists with five apiece.
- Boston only outscored Atlanta in one of the four quarters - the fourth - but still won by seven.
- Atlanta shot just 34.9 percent from the field.
- Both teams' benches scored 14 points.
- Garnett logged a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
- The Celtics shot 26-for-31 from the free-throw line.
- Johnson led the Hawks in scoring with 22 points on 7-of-17 shooting.
- Smith led the Hawks in rebounding with 12 boards.
- Boston was outscored 42-26 in the paint.
- Pierce attempted game highs of 26 field goals and 13 free throws. He made 12 of those field goals and 11 of the free throws.
- Jason Collins fouled out of the game in less than 22 minutes of action.
- There were 11 ties and eight lead changes in the game.
- Each team had three players finish with four fouls.
- Avery Bradley blocked a game-high three shots.
- Paul Pierce committed a game-high eight turnovers.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on the importance of Paul Pierce's performance in Game 2: "The only way we were going to win a game like that without Ray (Allen) and (Rajon) Rondo was if Paul had a game like this."