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Down 2-0 and having set a record for offensive ineptitude in the first quarter of game 2, the Boston Celtics returned to the friendly confines of TD Garden Friday needing a win as desperately as they have all season -- and, perhaps, more desperately than they have in years. Well, desperate times often bring out the best in men, and such was the case for the Celtics, who rode a hot start to edge the Hawks 110-103 Friday night.

Opening with a new look starting lineup -- including Jonas Jerebko's first NBA start since 2013 -- the Celtics needed a big push to erase the sour taste of two truly horrific offensive games back in Atlanta. From the first bucket (a ferocious slam by Jerebko, or, as I like to call him, Swedish Airlines) the Celtics attacked Atlanta with a purpose that was missing in their two road losses. Isaiah Thomas seemed determined to leave his playoff struggles behind him, scoring 16 of hsi career high 42 points in the first quarter alone to help power a 37-20 lead after one.

The Celtics offense stagnated in the second, however, as the Hawks patented pack the paint strategy choked off the juicy drive and kick shots that fuel Brad Stevens' offense. Clearly venting some frustration from poor showings early in the series, the Celtics played as physical as they have all year, leading to some serious chippiness that even escalated to a few face-to-face meetings that were broken up by teammates. Despite their intensity, however, the C's were outscored 25-20 after decimating Atlanta in the first, and lead by only 12 after building the lead as high as 17.

The Celtics started out hot in the third, as they so often have all season, going on a 6-0 run and forcing Atlanta Head Coach Mike Budenholzer to call a timeout before two minutes had run off the clock. However, Atlanta quickly rallied, lead by an aggressive Dennis Schroder, who continually exploited switches onto the Celtics big men to attack the rack and score. Meanwhile, the Celtics seemed to revert to their bad habits from earlier games, as they failed to move the ball with much energy and simply dribbled possessions away as the Hawks settled into a groove, with their lead dwindling to just 1 -- 79-78 -- after three.

A furious sequence early int he quarter saw both teams trade threes on four straight possessions, leading to four ties in that sequence alone before round of trading buckets brought the tie count to 6 before five minutes had even elapsed. Isaiah Thomas continued his stellar play, getting to the line with regularity, while Kyle Korver finally took the lid off the rim and nailed three threes (including a possible four point play wiped away by a Mike Scott lane violation).

The game turned when Schroder, who had been jawing with Thomas all night, was called for a flagrant one after he nailed Thomas in the head on a drive, leading them on an 8-2 run to secure a six point lead with four minutes remaining, 104-98. Several turnovers and two highly questionable foul calls -- one on Smart, one on Jerebko -- with just under 2:30 remaining gave the Hawks the opportunity to cut the lead to 3, but Kent Bazemore went only 1-2, setting up a 30 foot bomb for Isaiah Thomas to give him a 40 point game and the Celtics a 7 point lead. A series of missed open looks kept Atlanta in the game, but a Thomas steal with 42 seconds remaining allowed Boston to stretch the lead back to 7, 110-103. The Hawks bizarrely decided not to foul with under thirty seconds remaining, allowing the C's to close out their first playoff win since 2013.


Brenton Bauerle 4/22/2016 10:45:00 PM Edit
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