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Atlanta Hawks 102 Boston Celtics 96 Game Recap

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Well there are a lot of opinions on this game and the truth as it usually does lies somewhere in the middle. I want to begin today’s recap talking about flagrant fouls. In wake of the Malace and the Palace and the big fight between the Knicks and the Nuggets, flagrant fouls in the league are being called more regularly than ever. Last night’s game had two of them. The first was called against the Hawks ZaZa Pachulia. Kendrick Perkins grabbed an offensive rebound and pump faked before going back up with the shot. Pachulia blocked the shot, let me say that again, he blocked the shot, but in the motion proceeded to rake the top of the Kendrick Perkins head in his eye area. Textbook flagrant foul. While true he made a play on the ball he followed through and struck Perkins in the face. In today’s NBA that is a flagrant every time. The late 80’s that is just a hard foul. The second flagrant foul was called on Glen Davis’ foul on Marvin Williams at the end of a break away. Davis fouled Marvin hard whom he outweighs by 40+ pounds which led to Marvin’s resulting fall being as violent as it was. Davis didn’t really make a play on the ball. Was their intent? I think the intent was to not allow the three point play. Again was it flagrant? In today’s NBA I’m afraid it is. Officials are so mindful for whatever reason of having on court incidents that they are going to do everything they can to prevent them.

Now lets examine the mayhem that happened after the Davis flagrant was called. Doc Rivers protested adamantly and promptly received two technicals and was ejected. I don’t have a problem with that. Rivers didn’t like the call and was protecting his player. I even commented in the chat that  I wish Mike Woodson would protect a player like that every once in a while. In the long run they will be better for it. I thought the T by Armon Hill was foolish. Lets look at the situation, Doc is already ejected and nothing is going to change that. As an assistant coach your job is to get the team calmed down and back focused on the game not to add to the mayhem and much less give the team another free throw. For whatever reason bad call or not, the Celtics let the game and their focus get away right at that moment. Up to that point the Hawks had been teetering on the brink of letting the game get away from them and the loss of composure by the C’s let the Hawks climb right back into the game.

The Hawks on the night allowed the Celtics to shoot about 55% from the field for the game.  The C’s had a slight rebounding edge that the Hawks significantly closed the gap on during the 4th quarter. For much of this game I was trying to figure out how the Hawks were even still in the game. Josh Smith and Al Horford started very slowly, Rajon Rondo got off to a good start attacking Mike Bibby, Brian Scalabrine got the start for an injured Rasheed Wallace and promptly slows down Josh Smith on defense and goes 3 of 3 from three point range. (More on Scal later) The story of this game though was the turnovers. Those extra possessions kept the Hawks within striking distance and ultimately let them steal the game away. The updated turnover numbers from my previous post show the Hawks turning it over 7 times leading to 5 points for the Celtics. The Celtics turned it over 19 times which led to 21 points for the Hawks.

Joe Johnson was superman tonight. Scoring from everywhere and hitting big shot after big shot on his way to 36 points. The Celtics had no answer. No one else did a lot for the Hawks until Jamal Crawford got it going midway through the 3rd and he finished with 17 points all scored in the second half. While the Hawks defense picked up substantially after all of the technical fouls I was puzzled by some of the Celtics strategy. Time after time in the 4th quarter it seemed as though the ball ended up in Davis’ hands with the shot clock running down. While the Hawks defensively forced the Celtics into some things I never felt like they tried to establish Paul Pierce in the 4th. Pierce had played an excellent game up to that point and if I am going down then I am going down with the ball in my best player’s hands. No doubt the Celtics missed Doc Rivers down the stretch. Late in the 3rd the C’s never called a time out to stop the run and made little to know substitutions down the stretch. Scalabrine who had done a good job defensively and had provided some perimeter shooting never got back in the game during the 4th. As I noted earlier none of the C’s coaching staff made any attempts to get the team back focused or organized. By the time Thibodeau called a timeout with 2:49 left to go in the game the damage had already been done. I felt as though the Celtics just got away from doing the things that had been working up until that point.

All in all it was a very competitive game that had a playoff feel to it. Just add another chapter in these two teams storybook. I’m sure the Celtics will remember this loss and will be extra motivated when the teams match up again later this month. I still feel that if the Celtics get healthy they are capable of beating anyone and could be a favorite come playoffs when the game slows down. Garnett means so much to that team the whole dynamic changes when he is on the court. The Celtics Late Night Show did a call in post game show and had some excellent discussion about the game.

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