Hawks soar past Celtics, 97-92


Hawks soar past Celtics, 97-92

ATLANTA Avery Bradley will be the first to admit that part of his success as a starter for the Boston Celtics has been the talented threesome of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, that he gets to play with every night in the starting lineup.

But for one night, Bradley was on his own or so we thought.

He may not have been playing with the Celtics usual cast of starters, but the C's proved once again that they're deep enough to compete with the top teams in the East - regardless of who they have available.

Despite being without most of their starters and their top two scorers off the bench, Boston put quite a scare into the Atlanta Hawks before ultimately losing, 97-92.

Trailing 92-88 with less than a minute to play, a turnover by Marquis Daniels ultimately led to a put-back basket by Josh Smith that all but ended any hopes of a Celtics comeback.

Bradley finished with a career-high 28 points, his third game of 20 or more points in Boston's last four.

Atlanta was led by their six-time all-star Joe Johnson, who came up with a slew of big shots for the Hawks who moved one step closer to clinching home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with the Celtics most likely being their first-round opponent.

Johnson led all scorers with 30 points.

Despite the lack of bodies, it certainly didn't take away from the Celtics' fight as they found themselves within one possession early in the fourth quarter.

Boston had multiple chances to take the lead, too.

First there was Daniels missing a wide open 3-pointer when the C's were down 74-73.

A lob pass to Ryan Hollins was ruled basket interference with the Celtics trailing 77-76 at the time.

Boston got three more shots at taking the lead within a two-minute period of time, coming up short in each instance.

The Hawks eventually made them pay as Willie Green drilled a 3-pointer to put Atlanta ahead, 82-78, with 5:44 to play.

It was that kind of night for the Celtics, who gave Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett the night off.

In addition, Boston was also without Allen, Rondo and Mickael Pietrus who were all back in Boston nursing injuries.

With so much offensive firepower out of the lineup, someone had to pick up the slack in comes Bradley.

Despite averaging 7.1 points per game this season, Bradley has been a nice offensive flow of late, Big Four or no Big Four.

In the Celtics' last four games prior to Friday night, Bradley averaged 20 points per game while shooting 62.7 percent from the field.

At the half on Friday, Bradley had 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting, well on his way to surpassing his career-high which is 23 points against both Orlando on Wednesday and earlier on March 25 against Washington.

Despite being without a slew of core players, the Celtics clawed their way to within a point, 72-71, late in the third quarter following a 3-pointer by E'Twaun Moore.

A jumper by Josh Smith gave the Hawks a 74-71 lead going into the fourth quarter, a position the C's were more than happy to be in.