Rajon Rondo messed around and got a triple-double on Friday in his first game back from suspension as the Boston Celtics narrowly hung on for a 90-84 win in OT to take a 2-1 lead over Atlanta in the best-of-seven series.
Rondo tallied 17 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists in the contest as teammate Kevin Garnett chipped in with a double-double (20 points, 13 boards) but it was Paul Pierce who led Boston with a team-high 21 points while Ray Allen (13 points), who played in the game but came off the bench, also reached double-figures. Allen has not played since April 10.
Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 29 points, on 11-of-28 shooting, and corralled eight caroms in the match-up as Jeff Teague poured in 23 points, on 9-of-16 shooting, dished out six helpers while grabbing four rebounds with two blocks and one steal in the game.
Tracy McGrady (12) was the only other player in double-figures for the Hawks. Starters Kirk Hinrich, Marvin Williams and Jason Collins combined for seven points in in 66 minutes of action.
Atlanta hung with Boston for three quarters but the C’s took the largest lead of the game 72-64 with nine minutes remaining. The Celtics then went up by 11 points, 76-65, on Rondo’s 11 assist of the game with seven minutes left.
Rondo corralled his 10 rebound of the contest with just over the three minutes to play to give him a triple-double in the match-up.
The Hawks cut the deficit to 80-77 at the two minute mark on a nice fall-back jumper by Joe Johnson. He then hit a cold-blooded 3-pointer and tied the game with 1:20 to go.
Atlanta called a timeout with 37 seconds remaining after rebounding a KG miss. On the Hawk’s next possession, Boston double-teamed Joe Johnson and forced Willie Green into a tough mid-range jumper that came up short.
Pierce got off the last shot of the game as time expired and got Joe Johnson to bite on the fake, but couldn’t hit the fall back-jumper to win in regulation.
In overtime, Pierce gave Boston a 86-82 lead on just his third made shot of the game with 2:43 to go.
With the Celtics still hanging on by four, Joe Johnson missed a crucial 3-pointer under 30 seconds to play. Allen grabbed the board, got fouled, and hit one-of-two from the foul-line to put Boston up 89-84.
Rondo got fouled in the closing seconds and made one-of-two free throws to seal the victory 90-84. Boston now controls a 2-1 advantage in the playoffs series.
Player Grades: Each player is given a grade on an A+ through F scale based upon their game performance.
Jeff Teague: B+
Teague was the best player for the Hawks — certainly the most consistent. He was the only starter who shot over 50 percent (9-of-16) in the game, logged the most minutes on the team, and finished with 23 points while adding six assists and four rebounds. His counterpart did have a triple-double but Teague held Rondo scoreless in the first half… I’m still trying to figure out if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…
Kirk Hinrich: F
23 minutes of play — didn’t score a single point.
Joe Johnson: B
J.J. hit huge shots for us when it mattered most, including knocking down a cold-blooded 3-pointer to tie the game in the closing seconds of regulation, but he missed 17 shots overall. That can’t happen. But I’m over reacting — Joe’s our best player and especially with Smoove out, we needed Joe to double his usual numbers, even if that meant taking 28 shots in the game. Him and Teague are the reason we stayed so close. I’m betting J.J. has a huge game 4 to lead the Hawks to victory.
Marvin Williams: C-
I was going to give the the “X-Factor” and F because in the game he was hardly A-Factor at all but at least he pulled down double-digit rebounds. The game we needed Williams to step up most the entire year, he disappears. He should be ashamed that McGrady doubled his playing time in the game — McGrady is a 14-year veteran, Williams is one in his sixth and should be entering the prime of his career. He finished with three points, one less than Jason Collins’ output. Terrible.
Jason Collins: C
Even though he got the start, again, no one expected anything from Collins, again, but he did outscore Marvin Williams.
The bench was the third best player on the team for the Hawks. McGrady played a hell of a game and picked up some of the slack for Williams’ poor excuse of an output; Dampier outplayed Collins; Willie Green hit a big 3 down the stretch.
SDS Plays of the Game:
The turning point in the game had to be KG’s offensive slam after Rondo missed a lay-up following his two-dollar stop-and-twirl bullshit of a move on Teague that put Boston up 88-84 in OT.
The Hawks could’t score again in the final 28 seconds and the Celtics hit two-of-four free-throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
SDS Player of the Game:
Rondo played a game-high 49 minutes of action en-route to his seventh triple-double of his playoff career — 75 games. First player in history to achieve the mark after sitting out the previous game due to suspension. Woo-friggin’-hoo.
How about a round of applause for Tracy McGrady. He did miss his last seven shots of the game overall but he made his first 5-of-7 from the field and logged 41 minutes of action — he hasn’t played that long in like 17 years.
Hawks just lost a heart breaker. No one really gave them much of a chance without Smith, including me, and to my delight was proved wrong as Atlanta managed to force OT after coming back from 11 down, the largest deficit of the game, in the final seven minutes of regulation.
Joe Johnson missed 17 shots but did make clutch baskets including the final five points Atlanta scored to force OT. Lack of big-men depth killed us.
I do believe there is a silver lining however. Hawks were without Josh Smith. Rondo had the triple-double in regulation. Three Atlanta starters combined for just seven points. And Boston was still taken to the brink and needed OT to get a home play0ff win.
This loss should translate into confidence for the Hawks because they gave the C’s a real scare. If Pierce misses one of his 14 made free-throws in regulation, Atlanta wins.
Game 4 is Sunday night at 7:00 PM (ET) in Boston. Josh Smith said he’s playing next game no matter what — he better.