OFFSEASON

Celtics-Hawks review: Tough pill to swallow

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Celtics-Hawks review: Tough pill to swallow

ATLANTA Every loss when all is said and done, counts the same.

But there are some that hurt more than others.

It will be some time before the Boston Celtics completely cleanse themselves of Friday's 123-111 double overtime loss to Atlanta.

Boston led by as many as 27 points before squandering the lead in the fourth quarter, and ultimately running out of gas in the second overtime session.

"The game should not have even got to overtime," said Celtics guard Rajon Rondo.

Disappointment has been a common theme inside the Celtics locker room with the team now having lost six straight.

But that disappointment took on a more visibly pained look about it Friday night, with players struggling for the first time since the losing streak began to articulate just how painful this latest setback is to their long-term goals.

"This is definitely a tough pill to swallow," said Paul Pierce.

Added Kevin Garnett: "Tough night tonight. We had our chances to win it, and just let it slip."

With a sixth straight loss, this team now finds itself in the same company as the 2006-2007 team that lost six or more games on three separate occasions, one of which was the franchise record-setting 18 straight losses.

Despite the C's inability to win of late, Celtics coach Doc Rivers remains convinced that this group of players he has will turn things around sooner or later.

"I'm just going to keep searching. I keep telling my coaches, we have the right group," Rivers said. "But we have to act right, all the time."

The Celtics certainly didn't act or play right in the second half or in the overtime sessions, failing to close out a game that was easily theirs for the taking.

Here are some of the keys to the game outlined prior to tip-off, and how they ultimately played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Points will be hard to come by for both teams with both ranked as two of the NBA's better scoring defenses. The C's come in giving up 95.8 points per game which ranks 8th in the league while the Hawks have limited opponents to 95.5 points per game which is the NBA's 6th-best scoring defense.

WHAT WE SAW: The double overtime session blew up any hopes of this being a relatively low scoring affair. Both teams were on the brink of having triple-digit points with the score tied at 98 going into the first overtime.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs Josh Smith: Bass continues to struggle at both ends of the floor for Boston, while Smith once again finds himself on the short list of all-star snubs. His omission has more to do with the Hawks slide than anything he did or didn't do statistically.

WHAT WE SAW: Bass was scoreless while missing all four shot attempts - good attempts, mind you - while Smith had a near triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. Of course, most of Smith's damage did not come with Bass on him because Bass played just under 19 minutes which was the fewest minutes among the starters.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Leandro Barbosa was scoreless in about nine minutes on Thursday, but don't be surprised if he continues to get minutes off the bench. The C's offense is in a major funk right now, and Barbosa is one of the few guys whose strength is the ability to score in bunches.

WHAT WE SAW: Celtics coach Doc Rivers reverted back to limiting Barbosa's minutes, although it made sense on Friday considering how well Courtney Lee (16 points) and Jason Terry 12 points, 4-for-6 shooting) were playing off the bench. Throw in Rajon Rondo's second straight triple-double (16 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists) and there really wasn't much room for Barbosa to play.

STAT TO TRACK: Celtics need to keep the score below 100 points. The Hawks have split their last eight games, going 4-4. In the four wins they scored more than 100 points every night while averaging 105 points per game. In the four losses, they averaged just 80.8 points per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Atlanta continues to play its best when it puts up big scoring numbers although the Hawks needed overtime to get there tonight.