Celtics rally for impressive win over Hawks

Celtics rally for impressive win over Hawks
January 6, 2013, 2:28 am
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ATLANTA Doc Rivers is a great talker, but he'll be the first to tell you that he's not cut from the Knute Rockne school of motivational speeches.

But there's no denying whatever he said inside the Boston Celtics locker room at halftime turned around Saturday's game against Atlanta - and potentially their season - as the C's put on one of the more improbable comebacks for them this season in rallying for a 89-81 win over the Hawks.

After trailing by as many as 19 points and 15 at the half, Boston came out in the third quarter with the kind of defensive focus we hadn't seen since Friday's blowout win over Indiana.

Friday's game was arguably the Celtics' most complete performance of the season, the kind of game you seldom see performed in duplicate.

Even Doc Rivers knew that.

But there are times when Rivers can be too prophetic for his own good.

Shortly before Saturday's tip-off, he talked about how Friday's win over the Pacers showed his players just how good they could be defensively.

"I don't know if you can play that well defensively every night," Rivers said.

Clearly the Celtics couldn't ... for a half at least.

The C's have had moments of dominant play all season, but stringing together such play for more than just a few minutes here and there has been challenging for them.

And while Saturday in many ways stayed true to that trend, the Celtics were able to put together longer stretches of stellar play than usual.

That, more than anything else, helped fuel one of the team's most impressive wins of the season.

And while many will look at the 33 points Boston scored in their 33-9 third quarter, it was limiting the Hawks to just nine points that quarter that fueled the team's impressive scoring binge.

Even in the fourth quarter as the Hawks tried to scramble back in the game, the Celtics defense was locked in at all positions.

And it wasn't just one player, either.

It was the entire group, on a string, helping one another out on switches and rotations - the kind of things that Rivers has been preaching to his troops to play all season.

Well it seems they may have finally figured it out, showing an ability to get it done for more than just one game after a forgettable first half.

Lou Williams practically outscored the entire Boston team in the first quarter with 16 points compared to the Celtics' total of 18.

Lay-ups. Jumpers. 3-balls.

Atlanta got everything and anything they wanted to offensively, and backed it up with some solid play defensively.

At the half, Boston trailed 53-38 and truth be told, the game felt as though the Hawks should have been up by a lot more points.

The Celtics used 11 players in the first half with each of them having a plus-minus ratio in the negative with the "best" of the lot being Courtney Lee who was minus-2.

As for the Hawks, it was their backcourt that totally dominated the game as Williams and Jeff Teague combined for 34 points in the first half on 14-of-20 shooting in the first half.