Smith, Hawks rally past Celtics
Boston, MA (Sports Network) – Josh Smith scored 21 points and grabbed 11
rebounds as the Atlanta Hawks erased an 18-point third quarter deficit to top
the woeful Boston Celtics, 82-76.
Joe Johnson also posted 21 points while Josh Childress contributed 14 for the
Hawks, who put the breaks on a three-game skid.
Delonte West scored 18 points and Kendrick Perkins had 15 points and 12 boards
for the struggling Celtics, who lost their eighth straight game at home and
Boston, which fell to 2-15 without the services of star forward Paul Pierce,
received more bad news when Al Jefferson left the game in the fourth quarter
with a mild right ankle sprain. He finished with 11 points and 10 boards.
Pierce, meanwhile, hasn’t played since December 22 with a stress reaction in
his left foot.
The Celtics took advantage of Atlanta’s awful first quarter to race out to a
28-10 lead. Boston took that advantage into the third quarter before the Hawks
finally came to life. After Gerald Green’s three gave the Celtics a 50-35 lead
just under three minutes into the third, the Hawks, led by Johnson and Smith,
ripped off an 18-4 run to pull within 57-53 on Zaza Pachulia’s layup with 4:11
Boston pushed its lead to eight, 62-54 on West’s three-point play with 3:10
left, but Smith hit two free throws to make it 62-56 and Atlanta was able to
carry the momentum into the fourth quarter.
Johnson opened the quarter with a jumper as the Hawks scored the first 10
points of the fourth to grab a 66-62 lead on another Johnson basket. Sebastian
Telfair’s layup brought Boston within 68-66, but Shelden Williams, Pachulia
and Smith answered with baskets to make it 74-66 with 2:35 left in the game.
Another Telfair layup brought the Celtics within 76-71 with just over a minute
to play, but the Hawks converted their free throws down the stretch to ice the
Boston, not to be outdone by Atlanta’s first quarter, didn’t score a point in
the fourth until Rajon Rondo’s free throws with 6:50 remaining. The loss
dropped the Celtics to a league-worst 4-16 at home.
“We didn’t panic, even when we were down big,” said Childress. “I think
changing to the 2-3 zone really helped us defensively and started to frustrate
them. You could kind of see it when they started to miss shots there in the
second half. Our defense was great.”
Things didn’t look good for Atlanta early as the Hawks missed their first
eight shots. Boston, on the other hand, scored seven straight points to start
the game, capped by Perkins’ dunk.
Childress converted the second of two free throws with 7:17 left in the first
to finally get Atlanta on the board and after Perkins’ three-point play,
Pachulia’s bank shot ended the Hawks’ field goal drought and made it 10-3 with
Green responded with a three to spark a 9-1 Celtics run that made it 19-4 with
3:21 left in the first. West dropped in two from the charity stripe with just
31 seconds remaining as Boston led 28-10 after the opening 12 minutes.
The Hawks came close to tying a franchise-record for fewest points in a first
half with 27, but Childress hit a jumper as time expired to cut Atlanta’s
deficit to 44-29 at the break.
“We played great in the first half, defensively,” said Boston head coach Doc
Rivers. “It’s funny, one of my coaches walking out at halftime said, you
know, we haven’t made a shot in the first half. We just played great defense
and got the lead. In the second half we continued to not make shots.”
Green finished with 13 points and eight rebounds for Boston…Pachulia ended
with 10 points and nine boards for the Hawks…Atlanta guard Tyronn Lue also
had to helped off the court in the fourth quarter.