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.

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

BOSTON – From the outset of this season, the Boston Celtics were swimming upstream when it came to getting respect. 

No matter how many wins they racked up, no matter how many upsets they managed to pull off, they were never going to do enough to satisfy the court of public opinion which wanted one thing and one thing only from the NBA: A third installment of Golden State against Cleveland in the NBA Finals. 

The Warriors did their part by running through the West with 12 wins in as many playoff games. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will try to not just stave off elimination tonight, but continue to delay what so many believe is an inevitable Golden State-Cleveland Final.

Boston’s Al Horford understands that while the league this season has seen lots of individual success as well as teams that have overachieved, the thirst for Golden State versus Cleveland remains stronger than ever. 

“We understand that’s what everyone has been talking about since the beginning of the season,” Horford said. “For us it’s just to focus … and play the Celtic way. And just come out here and fight and we’ll take it from there.”

The Celtics did that in Game 3 with Avery Bradley delivering one of the more memorable shots in the Brad Stevens era, a game-winning three-pointer that hit the rim four times before falling with 0.1 seconds to play as Boston squeaked out a 111-108 win.

Boston did a lot of good things in Game 4 and seemingly went into the half sensing that maybe just maybe they would even up the series at two games heading back to Boston for tonight’s Game 5 matchup. 

But Kyrie Irving picked up the slack for a foul-plagued LeBron James, lifting the Cavaliers to a 112-99 win which puts them now just a win away from advancing to the NBA Finals. 

Not only have folks both in the media as well as fans who have rooted for this series to be over, even merchandise sellers like Dick Sporting Goods have anticipated this series as already being over.

“It is what it is,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “It’s been like that all year; a lot of guys counting us out. At the same time, we’re trying to put ourselves in position to win each and every game.”

While that has been the goal, it certainly hasn’t worked out that way in this series. 

Despite Games 1 and 2 being at the TD Garden, the Celtics lost both games by a total of 57 points. 

And while they won Game 3 and had the Cavaliers on the ropes in Game 4 before losing, they know their chance to play NBA Finals spoiler is just about up. 

“We know that’s the Finals that everybody wants to talk about, what everybody is looking forward to,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “We understand it. But we work just as hard as these guys. We just have to keep going out there and working. We’re not going to give it to them, and stuff like that. We just have to make it tough on them.”