When you have a superior team in the playoffs (partiucarly in the first round), you have to take care of business as soon as possible. You can't let teams hang around and gain confidence. Unfortunately, the Celtics-the "better team" have forgotten this coach speak.
Didn't see this coming, did you? The Atlanta Hawks beat the Boston Celtics, 97-92, in game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to even the series at 2-2.
The Celtics looked in control at different points, jumping out to a 16-3 lead to start the game then carrying a 10-point advantage into the fourth quarter but they couldn't close out this increasingly pesky Hawks team.
Plain and simple, Atlanta won because of Joe Johnson. The all-star had a game-high 34 points, including a jaw-dropping 20 in the fourth quarter. The Hawks offense was pretty simple in the fourth, give it to Johnson and get out of the way. Boston complied, never really changing things up until it was too late.
Johnson and Josh Smith (28 points, 7 blocks, 6 rebounds) scored all of Atlanta's points in the fourth quarter. Mike Bibby added 18 points and Al Horford (who gets more annoying each game) hauled in 13 rebounds.
Kevin Garnett had 20 points, nine boards and six steals but appeared to lose some of his mojo after getting into a scuffle with Atlanta goof Zaza Pachulia. They were fighting for a rebound in the second then continued to jaw after the whistle had blown. This led to technicals for both players and matching T's for Johnson and Sam Cassell.
A fired up Philips Center, full of as my friend texted me "16,000 Pacmans," went crazy for the rest of the game.
Ray Allen led the C's with 21 points while Paul Pierce had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Pierce's biggest flaw came back to bite him as he went 4 of 8 from the free throw line.
Rajon Rondo had 14 points and 12 assists while James Posey had 10 points off the bench while the rest of the subs were 1 for 9 from the floor.
For the second straight game, the officials were terrible but that's not why they Celtics lost; they simply failed to execute in the fourth, getting outscored 32-17.
The style that brought the C's so much success this season has included crisp ball movement and plenty of drives to the hoop. Boston got away from that last night as they settled for the first shot or tried to go one-on-one too often.
For the game, Atlanta shot 47.8% from the floor to Boston's 41.2%. Threes kept the Celtics in the game (12-4 advantage) since the Hawks dominated free throws made (29-10). The C's had 10 more assists (26-16) which is puzzling and seven more steals (11-4).
The only number that matters is 2-2. This series has become a three-game series and while Boston has the home-court advantage, the pressure is completely on them to avoid what would be a historical upset.
Game 5 is tomorrow night at the TD Banknorth Garden. It's a must-win for the Celts as far as I'm concerned, they can't go to Atlanta down 3-2.