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.
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.