Celtics clip Hawks in OT, 107-102

Celtics clip Hawks in OT, 107-102
March 8, 2013, 10:30 pm
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BOSTON — Doc Rivers isn't into preaching that whole "this is a big game" sermon even if he knows games like Friday's matchup against Atlanta, was a big game.

In his eyes, there's no need to.

His players understand anything short of a playoff-like intensity at this point won't allow them to compete, let alone win games.

When the game mattered most, the C's were indeed able to elevate their collective games to a playoff-like level in Friday's 105-102 overtime win over Atlanta.

Josh Smith led all scorers with 32 points to go along with nine assists and eight rebounds. Meanwhile, the Celtics were led by Paul Pierce's 27 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. Boston also got a nice game from Kevin Garnett who had 17 points and eight rebounds.

But it was Jason Terry delivering the game's biggest shot, a 3-pointer with 35 seconds to play in overtime.

After a Hawks time-out, Smith drilled a pass into the lane that bounced off of Al Horford out of bounds.

With the ball, a 3-point lead and only a seven-second difference between the game and shot clock, the C's were all about milking the clock.

And once again it was Terry in position to deliver a clutch play as he was fouled by Kyle Korver on a shot attempt.

Terry, who had 19 points off the bench, made both free throws which led to the Hawks calling another time-out.

It didn't matter though.

With less than 10 seconds to play and a five-point lead, the C's had every reason to feel this game was over as they won for the ninth straight time at the TD Garden.

And with the win, Boston (34-27) is now tied with the Hawks for the No. 6 spot in the East. The C's would have it if the playoffs were today by virtue of winning two of their three matchups this season.

Even after a driving lay-up by  Smith cut Boston's lead to just three points with less than three minutes to go, Boston showed no signs of concern or uneasiness.

The Hawks tied things up at 92 with a Korver 3-pointer, his first of the night, with 1:31 to play only for Pierce to come back and drill a fade-away jumper over Al Horford with 1:10 remaining.

Once again the Hawks responded, this time with an alley-oop to Horford.

Pierce went to the step-back, fadeaway jumper once again but this time it was off the mark.

The down-to-the-wire finish was indicative of how the game began.

Both teams shot the ball extremely well in the first quarter which ended with Boston clinging to a 28-26 lead.

The quarter featured Kevin Garnett draining his second 3-pointer in as many games after missing his first 11 this season.

Boston seemed poised to pull away in the second quarter after a Garnett jumper gave the C's their first double-digit lead of the game, 41-31, after a Garnett 15-foot jumper.

At that time, one of the keys to the C's surge and overall solid play was that the mistakes they had made - five turnovers - didn't cost them anything, literally.

But the Hawks responded with a pair of baskets off of Celtics turnovers - their first points off turnovers in the game - to make it a single digit game again.

Atlanta would eventually take the lead, 44-43, after a 3-pointer by Anthony  Tolliver.

But the C's bounced back by closing the quarter with a 9-3 run to lead, 52-47 at the half.

The third quarter saw the Celtics lead by as many as eight points, but those pesky Hawks once again managed to keep the game from getting away from them as they closed out the quarter with a 6-2 mini-spurt that left the C's with a 72-68 lead going into the fourth quarter.