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.

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

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Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

BOSTON – Avery Bradley doesn’t mind being a standout, but this is probably not what he had in mind. 

Injuries have ravaged the Boston Celtics’ starting five to the point where only one player, Bradley, has been with the first unit in all 22 games this season. 

Just like Bradley was looked upon to step his game up in the absence of Isaiah Thomas (right groin) at Orlando on Wednesday, he will once again be challenged to lead Boston (13-9) to victory tonight when the Thomas-less Celtics face the Toronto Raptors. 

Bradley’s emergence as a two-way talent this season has overshadowed at times what has been another season of elite play defensively. 

And he’ll need to be on top of his defensive game tonight against a Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. 

Both Lowry and DeRozan present a different kind of challenge for Bradley who will spend time defending each of them at various points during the game. 

Lowry has good size, strength and deceptive quickness in addition to an under-rated perimeter game that will keep Bradley on his toes for sure. 

This season he's averaging 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 7.6 assists while shooting 42.9 percent on 3's which is also a career mark. 

And DeRozan is having the kind of season that might get him a few league MVP votes. 

His 28.0 points per game ranks fifth in the NBA, but making his numbers even more impressive is that unlike most guards DeRozan doesn’t generate much offense from three-pointers.

DeRozan averages 1.8 three-point attempts per game which is the fewest attempts among any player ranked among the league’s top-25 scorers.

The 6-foot-7 All-Star is the master of the mid-range game which accounts for 31.5 percent of the points he scores. And when he’s not shooting the mid-range, he’s working a defender in one-on-one iso-situations. 

That helps explain why 76.4 percent of his two-point made field goals are unassisted. 

But here’s the thing about Bradley. 

As much as we give him props for what he does defensively, it’s his offense that has put him on the map as a potential All-Star this season. 

Bradley is averaging a career-high 17.9 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.8 rebounds per game in addition to shooting a career-high 40.7 percent on 3's.

But for Bradley, individual accolades are only going to come his way by the Celtics winning games; preferably against above-average teams like the Toronto Raptors.

And that would make both Bradley and the Celtics stand out this season.