Hawks grounded by Celtics, 88-86

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Hawks grounded by Celtics, 88-86

BOSTON The Boston Celtics were coming off an emotionally charged, physically draining win at Miami less than 24 hours earlier, and could not replicate that impressive shooting performance.

But this team is all about getting it done defensively, which they were able to do against Atlanta -- even without their defensive anchor Kevin Garnett, who fouled out in overtime with just under three minutes to play.

Boston didn't have Garnett on the floor for the game's final 2:43, but the C's once again proved that they are more than just a one-man show in defeating the Hawks, 88-86, in overtime.

The game-winning basket was scored by Paul Pierce, but this win was all about the Celtics' defense which was surprisingly effective even without Garnett down the stretch.

When he left the game, the Celtics were leading, 88-84.

A jumper by Atlanta's Kirk Hinrich cut Boston's lead in half which had the feel that the Hawks were about to take off.

Not!

Following a Celtics turnover, the Hawks returned the favor when Josh Smith threw a pass towards Hinrich that rolled out of bounds with less than two minutes to play.

Not to be out-done in the turnover game, Boston then committed a 24-second shot clock violation.

Atlanta had multiple chances of to tie the game or take the lead, only for the Celtics' defense to come up with a much-needed stop.

An offensive foul against Boston's Greg Stiemsma gave the Hawks one more chance, and they made the most of it as Joe Johnson drew a foul against Stiemsma -- his sixth -- which meant both he and Garnett had fouled out.

With only 40.4 seconds to play, the Celtics had a team of Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo, Mickael Pietrus, Brandon Bass and Paul Pierce on the floor -- about as small-ball a lineup as the C's could have.

Boston forced another turnover, but Pierce was then called for an offensive foul with 10.1 seconds to play.

And once again, the C's were in need of a defensive stop.

And once again, they were up to the challenge by forcing Josh Smith into a long 3-pointer that grazed the front of the rim. A mad scramble for the loose ball ensued as it went out of bounds off an Atlanta Hawks player with 1.3 seconds to play which meant all the C's had to do was in-bounds the ball and the win -- and the season series with the Hawks -- was there for the taking.

The Hawks did a nice job of denying the C's attempts at in-bounding the ball, which led Rajon Rondo to call a time-out.

After the 20 second time-out by Boston, the Celtics were able to in-bound the ball to Rondo who quickly tossed it up in the air as time expired. He tallied his sixth triple-double this season with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 20 assists. Garnett had 22 points and 12 rebounds while Brandon Bass had 21 points and 10 rebounds. The Hawks were led by Smith's 20 points and 11 rebounds while Jef Teague had 21 points.

Report: Celtics likely to guarantee Amir Johnson’s $12M deal for next season

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Report: Celtics likely to guarantee Amir Johnson’s $12M deal for next season

The Celtics will likely guarantee the second year of Amir Johnson’s two-year, $24 million deal he signed last season, the Boston Globe reported.

Johnson, 29, a 6-9 forward, signed as a free agent last summer, averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 79 regular season games for the Celtics and 8.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in the six-game, first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks. 

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics to make qualifying offers to Sullinger, Zeller

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Report: Celtics to make qualifying offers to Sullinger, Zeller

The Celtics will make qualifying offers to Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller by the Friday deadline, the Boston Herald reports.

With offers of $4.4 million to Sullinger and $3.7 million to Zeller, the two will become restricted free agents, meaning the Celtics have can match any offer sheet they sign. The two would have become unrestricted free agents without the qualifying offers.

Sullinger could take the offer to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, but the Herald reported Zeller would likely be looking elsewhere to find a bigger role after his playing time decreased last season.

Sullinger started 73 games and averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in the regular season. He averaged 5.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 13.5 minutes in the first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks and lost his starting job two games into that series. 

Zeller averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds last season. He played in three of the six games in the Atlanta series. 

OFFSEASON

Celtics' ace in the hole in pursuit of Durant: Brad Stevens

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Celtics' ace in the hole in pursuit of Durant: Brad Stevens

Kevin Durant is hanging out in the Hamptons waiting to be wooed by six NBA teams, including your Boston Celtics.

(Wait, this just in: A seventh party has entered the sweepstakes. Kelly Ripa, a fellow Hamptonite has requested to pitch KD on becoming her co-host. “It’s LIVE with Kelly and KD!” It flows.)

Today Durant meets with his current team the Oklahoma City Thunder. What the hell is anyone going to say in this meeting? “Hey, KD. Anything new since we saw you a month ago, when you couldn’t make a shot in the clutch against the Warriors?”

Seriously, what can OKC tell the guy about their team that he doesn’t already know? He could have just stopped by the GM’s office on his way to the Hamptons. But, in this day and age of the power player, all must bow to him. Ah, what the hell. I would probably do the same thing.

I have a gut feeling about OKC and Durant. He wants out. If not this year -- because it looks like he's going back to the Thunder for one more season -- than the next. Is it the small town? Is it that Russell Westbrook could bolt next season to the Lakers? Is it coach Billy Donovan?

Ahhh ha! That’s what I’m going with.

I've always read that Durant loves the fans in OKC. He has never seen like a “big city” guy to me, or someone who has to live in South Beach or Manhattan. Kevin Durant has always seemed to be about basketball and that’s why I think he has man love for Brad Stevens.

I have this moment during the playoffs when OKC was playing the Warriors engrained in my brain. Durant commits a stupid mistake out of frustration that results in a turnover and a Warriors hoop. On the sideline, Billy Donovan chews his ear off for what seemed forever.

That was a mistake. Billy the Kid needed to realize he wasn't in Gainesville anymore. Remember, Billy is chip off the old Rick Pitino coaching block. Both love to talk and love to coach.

That can work against you in the NBA.

Brad Stevens, who is a better coach than Donovan, would never do that. Heck, Brad rarely shows up a rookie on the sideline. He's smart enough to know if a veteran like Durant errs because he's mad, nothing needs to be said. Players like Durant, LeBron or Steph know when they screw up.

I can see Durant talking basketball with Brad for hours, I mean, leave the room at lunch and come back after dinner and you'd find the two still jawing about everything from calling plays after time outs to Texas’s prospects next year.

I know Danny Ainge sat next to Durant’s mother during the tournament and was fined for it. Still, it was a very nice touch and it certainly made an impression on KD.

But the real reason, in my opinion, that he's thinking about Boston is Stevens.

Now if the Celtics can sell on him on playing with Jaylen Brown, they have a real shot.

Good luck with that.