Boston Celtics

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.

NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

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NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

NEW YORK - NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season's playoffs.

Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden's attempts after he swings his arms into contact.

The new rules interpretations are being unofficially called the "Harden Rule" and the "Zaza Rule". The Washington Wizards accused the Celtics' Al Horford of a dangerous closeout on Markieff Morris that injured Morris and knocked him out of Game 1 of their playoff series two weeks before the Pachulia-Leonard play.

Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard's in Game 1 of Golden State's victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at a replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.

"It's 100 percent for the safety of the players," NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said Thursday.

The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries. 

Officials can still rule the play a common foul if they did not see a dangerous or unnatural attempt by the defender upon review. Borgia said Pachulia's foul would have been deemed a flagrant.

With the fouls on the perimeter shots - often coming when the offensive player has come off a screen and quickly attempts to launch a shot as his defender tries to catch up - officials will focus on the sequencing of the play. The player with the ball must already be in his shooting motion when contact is made, rather than gathering the ball to shoot such as on a drive to the basket.

"We saw it as a major trend in the NBA so we had to almost back up and say, `Well, wait a minute, this is going to be a trend, so let's catch up to it,"' NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said.