Celtics-Hawks review: Tough pill to swallow

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Celtics-Hawks review: Tough pill to swallow

ATLANTA Every loss when all is said and done, counts the same.

But there are some that hurt more than others.

It will be some time before the Boston Celtics completely cleanse themselves of Friday's 123-111 double overtime loss to Atlanta.

Boston led by as many as 27 points before squandering the lead in the fourth quarter, and ultimately running out of gas in the second overtime session.

"The game should not have even got to overtime," said Celtics guard Rajon Rondo.

Disappointment has been a common theme inside the Celtics locker room with the team now having lost six straight.

But that disappointment took on a more visibly pained look about it Friday night, with players struggling for the first time since the losing streak began to articulate just how painful this latest setback is to their long-term goals.

"This is definitely a tough pill to swallow," said Paul Pierce.

Added Kevin Garnett: "Tough night tonight. We had our chances to win it, and just let it slip."

With a sixth straight loss, this team now finds itself in the same company as the 2006-2007 team that lost six or more games on three separate occasions, one of which was the franchise record-setting 18 straight losses.

Despite the C's inability to win of late, Celtics coach Doc Rivers remains convinced that this group of players he has will turn things around sooner or later.

"I'm just going to keep searching. I keep telling my coaches, we have the right group," Rivers said. "But we have to act right, all the time."

The Celtics certainly didn't act or play right in the second half or in the overtime sessions, failing to close out a game that was easily theirs for the taking.

Here are some of the keys to the game outlined prior to tip-off, and how they ultimately played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Points will be hard to come by for both teams with both ranked as two of the NBA's better scoring defenses. The C's come in giving up 95.8 points per game which ranks 8th in the league while the Hawks have limited opponents to 95.5 points per game which is the NBA's 6th-best scoring defense.

WHAT WE SAW: The double overtime session blew up any hopes of this being a relatively low scoring affair. Both teams were on the brink of having triple-digit points with the score tied at 98 going into the first overtime.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs Josh Smith: Bass continues to struggle at both ends of the floor for Boston, while Smith once again finds himself on the short list of all-star snubs. His omission has more to do with the Hawks slide than anything he did or didn't do statistically.

WHAT WE SAW: Bass was scoreless while missing all four shot attempts - good attempts, mind you - while Smith had a near triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. Of course, most of Smith's damage did not come with Bass on him because Bass played just under 19 minutes which was the fewest minutes among the starters.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Leandro Barbosa was scoreless in about nine minutes on Thursday, but don't be surprised if he continues to get minutes off the bench. The C's offense is in a major funk right now, and Barbosa is one of the few guys whose strength is the ability to score in bunches.

WHAT WE SAW: Celtics coach Doc Rivers reverted back to limiting Barbosa's minutes, although it made sense on Friday considering how well Courtney Lee (16 points) and Jason Terry 12 points, 4-for-6 shooting) were playing off the bench. Throw in Rajon Rondo's second straight triple-double (16 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists) and there really wasn't much room for Barbosa to play.

STAT TO TRACK: Celtics need to keep the score below 100 points. The Hawks have split their last eight games, going 4-4. In the four wins they scored more than 100 points every night while averaging 105 points per game. In the four losses, they averaged just 80.8 points per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Atlanta continues to play its best when it puts up big scoring numbers although the Hawks needed overtime to get there tonight.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Williams surprises with big first half

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Halftime stars, studs and duds: Williams surprises with big first half

BOSTON – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Game 5 between Boston and Cleveland as the Cavs have a comfortable 75-57 lead.

STARS

LeBron James

He is definitely in triple-double mode tonight, tallying 20 points along with seven rebounds and seven assists at the half while shooting a blistering 7-for-8 from the field primarily on lay-ups and dunks.

Avery Bradley

The deficit is huge, but it hasn’t stopped Avery Bradley from playing with the kind of focus and desperation that sadly, most of his teammates are lacking tonight. He has 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting.

 

STUDS

Deron Williams

Easily the biggest surprise of the game tonight, D-Will looks like the D-Will from a few years ago that was viewed as one of the top point guards in the NBA. He has 14 points at the half on 5-for-6 shooting.

Jae Crowder

The Celtics have to be careful with Crowder in the second half. He has 11 points on 3-for-5 shooting and is doing a good job of attacking the Cavs defense and getting to the free throw line. But he also has three personal fouls.

Kevin Love

Once again Kevin Love got off to a fast start for the Cavaliers, and has 12 points along with seven rebounds at the half.

Kyrie Irving

Like the rest of the Cavs, Irving has also had a solid start shooting the ball. He has 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting to go with three assists.

 

DUDS

Kelly Olynyk

He’s in the starting lineup ahead of Amir Johnson for his ability to help space the floor with his shot-making. So far, shot-taking is all Olynyk has done in the first half. He’s scoreless at the half, missing all four of his shots from the field while grabbing just two rebounds.

 

Brown (hip) and Johnson (shoulder) will play in Game 5

Brown (hip) and Johnson (shoulder) will play in Game 5

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics are far from being healthy heading into tonight’s must-win Game 5, but they will have all of their players available with the exception of Isaiah Thomas (hip).

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown (right hip) was questionable heading into tonight’s game, but he told CSNNE.com earlier that he was planning to give it a go tonight.

Boston head coach Brad Stevens confirmed later on that the 6-foot-7 rookie would in fact play tonight.

His presence tonight is one of the many keys to Boston’s efforts to keep their season alive.

They trail Cleveland 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, with a loss tonight ending their season and with that, sending the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals for the third straight season.

Boston’s Amir Johnson (right shoulder) did not play in Game 4, but will be in uniform and available to play tonight. Stevens said the 6-foot-9 veteran was healthy enough to play in Game 4 but Stevens elected to keep him out of the game because he wanted Johnson to have more than one day to rest his shoulder before potentially playing him again.

In other injury-related news, Stevens confirmed comments made earlier in the day by Danny Ainge regarding Isaiah Thomas’ right hip injury which led to the Celtics shutting him down for the playoffs after the injury proved to be too much for him to play through at halftime of Boston’s Game 2 loss.

Speaking during 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show, Ainge said there was “a lot” of inflammation around the affected joint on Thomas’ right hip.

“It had gotten worse from the MRI’s he had before,” said Ainge who added that it would have been “irresponsible to allow him to play anymore.”

Said Stevens: “It sounds to me like the course of action right now … is let the inflammation go down a little bit.”

Ainge said earlier that because of the inflammation, it will likely be at least a couple weeks before Thomas and the Celtics will know if he will require surgery or whether another form of treatment will be needed.

Because of that uncertainty, Ainge stressed that Thomas would not return to play in this series even if it were closer.

“No. No way. He’s done (for the season),” Ainge said.