Celtics can't seal deal in Atlanta, lose 87-86

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Celtics can't seal deal in Atlanta, lose 87-86

ATLANTA It looks like the funeral procession for the Atlanta Hawks will have to wait as the Hawks come alive in the nick of time to extend their season with an 87-86 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of their best-of-seven series.

A 3-pointer by Paul Pierce cut Atlanta's lead to 87-86 with less than a minute to play. After getting a stop defensively, Pierce pulled up for a mid-range jumper that barely grazed the rim as it went out-of-bounds.

The C's couldn't force a turnover, so they fouled Josh Smith with 10.9 seconds to play.

Following a pair of time-outs by the Hawks, Rajon Rondo stole the ball but lost it out of bounds as time expired.

The C's will look to close out the series once again, this time in Boston on Thursday.

Atlanta made a lineup change with Al Horford and Marvin Williams being inserted into the starting lineup.

Horford was huge down the stretch, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Williams was instrumental in the Hawks taking control near the end of the first half. He had 15 points which included a pair of 3s in the second quarter that was part of an Atlanta surge to end the half.

Atlanta went ahead by double-digits with 12-0 run in the third quarter, but the Celtics closed out the quarter with a 10-0 run to come within 66-64 after three quarters of play.

Boston had its chances to go ahead early in the fourth, and eventually did so on a rainbow floater with 9:14 to play that put the C's ahead, 70-68.

Although Rondo was in full takeover-mode in the second half, the C's got a surprisingly strong contribution from seldom-used center Ryan Hollins.

His energy and hustle helped the C's get into the bonus in the first half. And it was that same energy that helped the C's finish the third quarter with a strong run.

Hollins also contributed some offensively, and his timing could not have been better in the second half when Rondo connected with him on an alley-oop to tie the game at 68.

Boston eventually went ahead by four following a 3-pointer by Ray Allen. But the Hawks countered with an 8-1 spurt to lead, 77-74 with 6:23 to play.

The down-to-the-wire finish was in stark contrast to the game's early beginnings.

Boston opened the game with an 11-3 run, looking to bury the Hawks early and never look back.

The Celtics spent most of the first half with the lead, only to allow the jump-shooting Hawks to catch fire with four consecutive 3-pointers that put them ahead, 40-37.

It appeared that would be the score at the half, but the Celtics got yet another unexpected play from Rajon Rondo, a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, to tie the game at 40 after two quarters.

Boston certainly had to feel somewhat disappointed with the score being tied. But on the road, in a close-out game?

The C's fully expected that Atlanta would not go down without a fight, even if a number of their core players were seemingly resigned to the idea that this was most likely their last game of the season.

That all changed with Marvin Williams in the second quarter. He had eight points at the half which included a pair of 3-pointers in the second that sparked a 12-4 run by Atlanta.

For Boston, they were led in the first half by Brandon Bass' 10 points. Bass, who had more double-digit scoring games this season than all the C's except Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, had failed to reach double figures scoring in five of Boston's last six games dating back to the end of the regular season. He finished with 14 points.

Highlights: Atlanta Hawks 114, Boston Celtics 98

Highlights: Atlanta Hawks 114, Boston Celtics 98

Tempers flared between the Celtics and Hawks, but Atlanta was able to get the best of Boston as they get the victory in the TD Garden.

Blakely: On surface Bogut makes sense for Celtics, but it comes down to chemistry

Blakely: On surface Bogut makes sense for Celtics, but it comes down to chemistry

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics got their butts kicked (again) on the boards Monday night by the Atlanta Hawks who defeated them 114-98.

The Celtics get their butts kicked most nights on the boards, and yet still find a way to win more often than not.

That’s why the possibility of adding Andrew Bogut who was bought out by Philadelphia is so intriguing.

Once he clears waivers on Wednesday, he’ll officially be a man in high demand with teams trying to show him love as if he was Kevin Durant or LeBron James.

But as much as the 31-year-old center on paper seems like a good addition to the Celtics roster because of his rebounding prowess and rim protection on defense, here’s what you have to keep in mind with Bogut or any other player Danny Ainge and the C's front-office brass decides to bring through that door.

Whatever team a new guy joins, he’ll look to play decent minutes and showcase his skills with unrestricted free agency around the corner this summer.

As far as Bogut is concerned, he's one of the more underrated members of Golden State's title squad in 2016.

Draymond Green's all-around game, Steph Curry’s 3-point bombs and Klay Thompson’s two-way talent were all key to the Warriors winning a title two years ago. But lost in their success among fans was Bogut’s defense which covered up for a lot of mistakes, miscues and blown assignments.

Whatever team Bogut signs with, ideally he would be looking to provide that same interior presence.

But here’s another issue.

Adding Bogut means waiving a player, most likely a young player that the Celtics will have essentially decided to give up on.

Since Bogut is a big, the logical target of being waived is Jordan Mickey.

The second-round pick from 2015 has shown improvement, but not nearly enough to garner steady minutes or even sporadic time on this roster.

Amir Johnson and Al Horford are the starters, with Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko rounding out their four-man big rotation so they're not going anywhere.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens typically plays those four bigs every night, so the idea of adding a fifth to the regular rotation doesn’t make sense.

Will one of those four be cool with not playing some nights or having their minutes severely carved up?

Would Bogut be cool with sometimes playing in games, or sometimes playing the role of waving a towel supporting his team from the bench?

And how does his presence affect chemistry which is a major deal for this team and its success this season.

Boston’s bigs in terms of rebounding, have not been good all season.

We can all agree on that.

And yet despite those struggles, they have the second-best record in the East (38-22) along with being a top-5 or top-6 team record-wise in the NBA.

They’re able to win because they have solid talent and Teflon-strong bonds to where they don't just play with each other, but for each other every night. 

We have seen stretches this season when the minutes have been cut or wiped out altogether for rotation players like Terry Rozier, Jonas Jerebko and Jaylen Brown.

And yet during the time when they are not playing as much, you never hear any public grumbling or private bickering among themselves or to the media.

There is a high level of accountability with Brad Stevens-coached teams that if you’re doing your job well, you’ll play. If not, your minutes might go to a teammate.

The best example of this came earlier this season when Gerald Green was essentially a practice player until Christmas Day when he came up big in Boston’s win over the New York Knicks.

Green saw more minutes going forward, but soon found himself struggling to get on the floor afterwards on some nights and the man whose minutes he took – Rozier – was back in the playing mix. 

During those times when Rozier wasn't playing, he said Green was a fixture in his ear, offering words of encouragement regardless of whether he was playing a lot or not at all. 

“Gerald’s always encouraging me, encouraging the young guys to just keep working, be patient and when your time comes, run with it,” Rozier recently told CSNNE.com. “He’s been a great vet for us young guys.”

And while Bogut wouldn’t come in looking to mess with the team’s chemistry, that doesn’t matter.

Anytime a new guy is added to the mix, it has the potential to be a really good pick-up or a potentially catastrophic equation of subtraction by addition.

In talking with a league executive who Bogut played for earlier in his career, he said Bogut would be a good addition to the Celtics roster from a basketball standpoint.

“But you never know about how they fit outside of that,” the executive told CSNNE.com. “As we’ve seen, sometimes it’s just as important that guys click off the court as it is that they can play together on it. I don’t think that would be an issue, but with new guys and not knowing how that locker room works and its dynamics, you just never really know how it’ll play out.

The executive added, “But if they can get him after the Philly buyout, do it. He can help them. His strength is their weakness; it makes a lot of sense for both sides honestly.”