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Boston, MA – It was Round 1, Game 4 at the TD Garden against the Atlanta Hawks aka the Celtics next “must-win” game of this series. We all agree that every game is a must-win game moving forward, yes? If we’ve learned anything as Celtics fans, it’s that anything is possible (hooray) but also...anything can happen (ugh). Our current injury-plagued squad is leaving everything they have out on the floor – blood, sweat, tears, body parts – and there’s no denying this team has bonded over their underdog status. Isaiah Thomas – who seems to particularly thrive off the underdog label – came off a career-high production in Game 3 with 42 points. Isaiah led all scorers in the playoffs at game time, averaging 28.3 ppg.

Boston is proving it doesn't matter what anyone calls your team -- underdog or otherwise -- or who you call your team's superstar (or if you have one). "We're One Superstar" which has been coined the team's mantra for the playoffs rang true tonight. There was by no means one player who could hang their hat on this win. Isaiah Thomas, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson and Marcus Smart all made countless contributions. Both Jerebko and Johnson shot 66.7% and Jerebko and Turner shot 50% from 3-point range. Five Celtics scored double figures, led by Isaiah Thomas who had 28 points.

As the 3rd quarter wrapped up, the Celtics had cut a 16-point deficit to three and Tommy Heinsohn reacted accurately for us all with a “How about this team?” proclamation.

How about this team! 

Celtics Starting Line-up
Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson, Isaiah Thomas and Evan Turner

1st Quarter
Jae Crowder, having put in extra shooting work this weekend, would come out firing to make the Celtics’ first 5 points of the night. Paul Millsap would contribute the first 4 points for Atlanta and a Hawks 13-4 run put them up 15-11. Marcus Smart was the first sub for Boston coming in for Jonas Jerebko. A Crowder three (making him 3-for-3 shooting so far on the night) would put the C’s back up with just over 5 minutes to go in the first. Two Turner buckets would push the lead to three as part of a 7-0 C's run.  An Isaiah Thomas teardrop-in-transition would force the Hawks to take a timeout from the 20-15 Celtics’ lead and a 9-0 run in just two minutes. Terry Rozier replaced Turner and picked up Thabo Sefolosha with a little over four minutes to play.  Celtics were effective on both sides of the ball to start the game, including some good-to-see Kelly Olynyk minutes (checked in for his first minutes since Game 1, with a minute to go in the quarter and grabbed two rebounds).

A Jared Sullinger and Smart collision via an Al Horford shove would send Sullinger limping off the court and Smart to the free throw line.  A Paul Millsap jumper in the lane would cut the lead to 3 (24-21) at the end of the 1st. Millsap led all scorers with 11 points (5 rebounds) and Crowder close behind with 8 points, including two 3’s.  Turner made more trips to the line than any other player on either team. Jae Crowder had the most minutes and the Celtics shot 37% to the Hawks’ 42%.

2nd Quarter
Olynyk started the 2nd alongside Rozier, Smart, Jerebko and Turner. The Celtics came out with a quick defensive stop by Smart followed by his put-back on a missed Turner lay-up on the other end. A Jeff Teague floater from 7 feet would tie the game at 26. Mike Muscala’s first points of the game put them up by two, as part of a 9-0 run that would put Atlanta up by 4. Heading into a timeout around the 9 minute-mark, the Hawks had outscored the Celtics by 4 points in the paint with the C’s shooting 44% there (compared to 61% in Friday night’s game). Boston’s bench produced just 1-9 so far in the contest.  A Smart three-pointer would pull the Celtics back within 2 (33-31). At the other end, a Turner v. Millsap tie-up resulted in a Turner-won jump ball.  

Eight different Celtics would have an offensive rebound so far in the game. Jerebko making 1-2 from the line put them within 1 of the lead. Crowder came back in the game with 6+ minutes to go in the half, replacing Sullinger. A missed three from Turner would be rebounded by Amir Johnson, dished back to Turner for the made layup. With 5 minutes to go in the half, the Celtics were shooting just 32.5% (4-15) but a Hawks' backcourt violation (their 7th turnover of the game) would give the C’s the chance to go ahead via a Johnson to Thomas combo for two. Thomas beating Kent Bazemore on a driving layup put Boston up again. The Hawks would commit their 8th turnover –  so far translating to 17 Celtics points – leading to a Crowder jump shot in the paint and the chance for an AND-1, which he’d make as part of a 13-2 Celtics run.

Crowder was shooting 4-6 from the field for 10 points with 3 minutes to play in the half. A Horford 3-pointer brought the Hawks within three, followed by a Millsap fall-away-jumper to cut it just to 1-point. Millsap would make a three to put his 2nd quarter scoring tally at 21 and 2-3, from three point range.  Hawks led by two (43-41). A Turner three would answer another Millsap basket and the Celtics trailed by one. Boston would re-take the lead with 45 seconds to play but Millsap would respond with a three to close out the half.  A foul called on Thomas after a Schroder lean-in would result in a shove on Crowder and a technical on Schroder. Thomas missing the free throw – and his only one of the half -- would keep the game at a two-point deficit at the end of two.

At the Half: Hawks 48 Celtics 46

Leaders at the half:
Jae Crowder and Evan Turner with 11 pts-a-piece and Paul Millsap with 26 points.

3rd Quarter
The 3rd needed to see less of Atlanta and more of Boston in three-point territory -- which meant a lot less of Millsap, who shot ¾ from three point line in the 1st half. Without him, the Hawks were shooting just 9-30 (3/13 from 3-point range). Same starting five for the Celtics to start the 3rd and Atlanta found their offense right out of the gates to go up 51-46. Millsap would get the ball in his hands again and make an 18-foot jumper over Johnson, who got called for the foul. With a little over 9 minutes to play the Celtics took a timeout to talk about trailing 10 points (Hawks’ biggest lead of the night) and presumably how-to shut down Millsap, who had 33 points and had already beaten his previous playoff career-high of 26. Just three minutes into the 3rd quarter and Millsap was 7-8.

A Kyle Korver baseline three would continue a 11-0 run by Atlanta. Not to be left out of the run, Teague would sink a three to make it a 16-point game (62-46).  Thomas would make the first C's points of the quarter – ending a 17-point run by the Hawks – with a driving layup and free throw for a successful 3-point play.  Thanks to a 3-second violation, the Celtics would take the ball back and cut the lead to 11 via a Thomas to Jerekbo reverse layup.  Sullinger got involved with a body under the hoop after a Jerebko foul on Teague and would be called for a technical.  A Smart layup would bring the lead back to 11 points and he’d push the ball ahead and dish to Thomas for the three.
Crowder went to the line with under four minutes to play and made 1-2 free throws.

Boston was behind 9 points but Millsap touched the ball again and their lead shot back to 11. A successful Thomas floater from a near impossible angle would put him on the line and make it an 8-point game with 3 minutes left in the 3rd.  Turner spinning to the basket would score on one end followed by a missed Bazemore three landing the ball back in Millsap’s hands to assist a Schroder bucket. Millsap was literally everywhere. Jerebko answered with a three of his own and the lead stuck at 8 points.  Turner made a layup in traffic and Johnson would block Schroder’s attempt on the other end to send the ball back Boston’s way.  Jerebko nailed another three to bring the Celtics within 3 points as part of an 8-0 run to close the 3rd.  At the end of three quarters, Thomas had 19 points, Turner 11 and Millsap led all scorers with 36. 

4th Quarter
Rozier started the 4th quarter for Thomas who played the entire 3rd. Jerebko made the first two baskets – a finger roll and a jump shot – of the quarter and give Boston the lead (74-73).  More Millsap (41 points) would push Atlanta back up 6 points and after just 3 minutes rest, Thomas would re-enter the ballgame for Boston.  It was a 3-point game after a Smart bucket and free throw. Two missed open three's by Atlanta kept their lead at three. A driving dunk by Smart closed the lead to 1 point.  On the next Celtics’ possession, Smart would tie the game at 82 with a made 3-pointer followed by another three and a steal on the other end.

Marcus Smart had 11 consecutive points with less than 5 minutes to play in the game and the C’s were up one. A Thomas bank shot gave Boston the 3-point lead (87-84). Back-to-back pick-offs by each team would lead to a Hawks' timeout with less than 3 to go. Turner with a huge block would send the ball back the C’s way but a turnover held their lead at 3. Atlanta would shrink the lead down to one but Jerebko fired up a three to make it a 4-point lead for the Celtics. Teague sinking back-to-back three’s gave the Hawks a 2-point lead with just 20 seconds to go. Thomas tied the game at 92 on a drive courtesy of a Smart pick! After two timeouts by the Hawks, Teague would hold the ball to the 3-second mark and lose control. Cue overtime.

OVERTIME
Back-to-back Johnson baskets kicked-off "free basketball" at the Garden.  The Hawks took a timeout and neither team could produce a bucket until Teague hit a three-pointer on a 3rd chance rebound.  A Korver foul on Johnson sent him to the line where he made 1-2 free throws. The next Atlanta possession featured a shot-clock violation despite a three by Bazemore after expiration. A patient Celtics possession at the other end produced a Turner made jump shot.

The Celtics led by four with 40 seconds left in the game. Thomas made a corner three at the C’s bench to make it a convincing 7-point Boston lead. The Hawks wouldn’t make another basket. Celtics win. 

FINAL SCORE: Celtics 104, Hawks 95

Follow Steph on Twitter @StephMBenz
Photo credit: Maddie Meyer, Getty Images



margaret in the middle 4/24/2016 09:34:00 PM Edit
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