Wow. What a game! Both teams certainly battled to the very end. So many important plays and players but what immediately sticks out is the presence of Al Horford. He set picks and rolled to the basket for easy dunks, ran the floor, played solid defense even on smaller guards at times, and filled out a starting lineup that all logged heavy minutes and scored in double figures.
The first quarter was a familiar tale with these teams as both the Hawks and Celtics slogged through sloppy offenses. However, from the second quarter on, both teams found their stride, running in transition and knocking down open 3′s. In one stretch, the Hawks knocked down 4 long bombs in a row, the first two owned by Marvin Williams set up in the far corner, the third by a Joe Johnson pullup and a fourth by Jeff Teague. Rajon Rondo knocked down a three at the end of the half contested by Willie Green as part of three buzzer beating shots by the Celtics in the first three quarters. At 56-54 Hawks midway through the quarter, the Hawks went on a 10-0 run, five of the points coming from the line highlighting their aggressiveness. Boston countered with a 10-0 run of their own led by Rondo’s hot hand on the mid range jumper.
The last twelve minutes were the proverbial gut checks for both clubs. The offenses were well executed on both ends, with teams taking advantage of the pick and roll on many occasions. After a Joe Johnson floater made it 83-76 in favor of the Hawks, the Celtics countered with a 7-0 run set up by Rondo distributing to the other members of the big four. Al Horford took over scoring the final 4 points for Atlanta. The Hawks were caught napping, leaving Pierce open along the arc to bring the game within one with 50 seconds remaining. Teague followed that with a missed open three and after an airballed Paul Pierce shot, the Hawks drew a foul with 10 seconds left. Josh Smith tried to inbound the ball to Joe so he could get fouled and go to the line but it was picked off by Rondo, but Josh made up for it by tipping a pass to Ray Allen to end the game.
Player Grades: Each player is given a grade on an A+ through F scale based upon their game performance.
Jeff Teague: B+
Played well as usual in the playoffs and created offense for others when the game got bogged down.
Joe Johnson: C+
Joe had some quotes about not getting enough touches after Game 4, as he finished that game with only 8 shots attempted. He went a modest 6-17 but provided a couple of timely buckets and was willing to give up the ball when a double team came, which it did frequently. With the changed starting lineup to move him back to the 2, the defensive burden for him on Pierce was a little easier.
Marvin Williams: B
Marvin may have had his best game in the playoffs in recent memory. No longer needed to play the power forward position, he set up in the corner and hit three of his six from long range. He also was a team high +14 for the game in 35 minutes.
Josh Smith: C+
Not his best game, as he started out 0-8 but finished 6-16 in a game high 46 minutes. Rebounded well with 16 total boards, and four offensive, but had a couple of costly turnovers in transition, and one that almost cost his team the game.
Al Horford: A+
OK, dismiss the box score for this grade. His presence was a huge lift in his first game in Atlanta in four months. He brought offensive and defensive energy and pushed Jason Collins to the bench. Hawks fans now remember his importance to this team after that effort.
Kirk Hinrich: B-
Played will in limited minutes for his first game off the bench. Made shots in the first when everyone else was struggling.
Tracy McGrady: D
One assist in 7 minutes, that’s it.
Willie Green: F
No, just no. Didn’t even attempt a shot and was a team worse -11 for the game.
Jannero Pargo: N/A
Yay, proper Pargo usage!
Ivan Johnson: N/A
Played 10 seconds. Too small to defend Garnett.
Erik Dampier: C
Had a nice roll to the basket and finish for two points.
Larry Drew: B
Gotta give it up to Larry Drew for this one, as he motivated his team to feed off the crowd energy. Left his starters in for the majority of the game and didn’t play his defense-adverse bench for many minutes.
SDS Plays of the Game:
Josh hustling back after his bone-headed inbounds play and tipping away a loose ball.
SDS Player of the Game:
Awesome return to Philips Arena. Played 41 minutes and had a double-double with 3 blocks, steals, and assists.
The Hawks staved off elimination and put the pressure on the Celtics to close out the series in Boston. The fans in Philips Arena made the place rock and set up a memorable playoffs game in an otherwise forgettable postseason. Both teams played well, and it was easy to tell each team know weak spots in the other after totaling 8 games against each other to this point.
With the starting lineup intact for the first time since a January game against the Pacers, the Hawks have proven themselves as a force to reckon with. However, Doc Rivers is one of the game’s best coaches, especially at making adjustments in a gameplan. Which Celtics team and which Hawks team will show up in Boston on Thursday as it should be an exciting affair in TD Garden.