Hawks Narrowly Avoid Elimination

Every year during the NBA playoffs, there comes a moment where a team has a choice to lay down and allow their opponents to get some rest before inevitably heading to the next round, or choose to keep fighting in hopes of pulling off an improbable comeback.

Faced with a “win or stay home” scenario, the Atlanta Hawks nearly handed the Boston Celtics a win but hung in to earn a 87-86 victory in Atlanta.

After a successful but tough season, Hawks coach Larry Drew felt that his team was ready for the challenge of fighting out there way out of a 3-1 hole.

“I think we have had a really good season up until this point. We have overcame a lot of adversity through the course of the season,” Drew said before the game. “This team that has shown that they can take the challenge, especially when you talk about dealing with adversity and tough times.”

The Hawks definitely did their part to keep things interesting, as they made several runs but the Celtics responded at the end of every quarter, making it a back-and-forth battle all the way until the final possession.

After being down as much as ten in the second quarter, the Hawks made a furious run to close the half, making four consecutive three pointers, including two from Marvin Williams. In most cases this would leave a team with a bit of momentum going into the second half. However, a couple of free throw makes and a big dunk from Celtic big man Brandon Bass kept the Hawks from running away. To make things worse, Rajon Rondo drilled a three at the buzzer to send the teams to the Locker-room tied at 40.

In the third quarter, the Hawks played some of the best basketball they’ve played all series. Sparked by a fiery Al Horford who was playing in his first game in Philips arena since undergoing season ending surgery back in January, the Hawks soared to a 12-point lead with less than three minutes to go in the third. Then Rondo struck again.

Rondo closed out the quarter with six points, one assist, one steal and one rebound in the last two minutes and 42 seconds of the third to cut the lead to two.

In the final period the Hawks got the lead back up to seven, but the Celtics crept their way back getting the lead down to one with 10 seconds left to play.

Then Rondo struck. Again.

A Josh Smith inbound bounce pass was intercepted by Rondo giving the Celtics one last crack at closing the series in Atlanta. Luckily for the Hawks, the Celtics seemed so caught off guard by Smith’s blunder that they were unable to get off a good shot.

With the series heading back to Boston for Game 6, the Hawks will once again have their backs against the wall as they go against a pesky Rondo, a hot Paul Pierce and bustling away crowd.

Pierce, Celtics Steal One In Atlanta

After jumping out to a sizable lead early and weathering the storm late to beat the Boston Celtics in game one of their Eastern Conference matchup, the Atlanta Hawks found themselves in trap game heading into the second game of the series Tuesday night.

The Hawks had a lot of things in their favor. Ray Allen has yet to return to action for the Celtics, as he has been plagued with an ailing ankle. Rajon Rondo was forced to sit Tuesday’s contest out because of the infamous bump heard ‘round the world. To top things off, the Hawks again had home court advantage.

Perhaps the most interesting thing of it all is that the Hawks knew exactly what they were getting into.

“We can’t come out thinking that [with] no Rondo that it’s going to be an easy game,” Larry Drew said before the game. “We have to bring our A-game, because our B-game isn’t going to get it done. “

But pre-game coach preachiness was not enough to prevent Atlanta from suffering one of the most embarrassing collapses they have had all season to the tune of an 87-80 loss.

One would think the team missing their starting point guard would be the one to struggle offensively, but with the game on the line, a stellar performance from Paul Pierce and tough Celtics defense left the Hawks looking dazed and confused.

After struggling the entirety of Game 1, Pierce looked like a man on a mission. The 2008 Finals MVP scorched the Hawks for game-highs 36 points and 14 rebounds. In the fourth quarter Pierce knocked down 5-of-7 from the field for 13 points. Atlanta struggled connecting on just 4-of-19 attempts from the field and only managed to outscore Pierce by one.

“The only way we were going to win the game is if Paul played like that,” Doc Rivers said during the postgame press conference. “He knew that. So did [the Hawks], yet he still did it. It just tells you how special he is.”

Avery Bradley, who told HOOPSADDICT.com before the game that he had knocked of his playoff jitters in game one, did a solid job filling for Rondo. The second-year guard scored 14 points while shooting 50 percent from the field. He also contributed on defense with three blocks and three steals.

On Friday, the series shifts to Boston with a completely different tone. The Celtics now have home court advantage, Rondo is set to return from his suspension, and the Hawks may have to go without Josh Smith who left Tuesday night’s game early with a sprained knee. In order for the Hawks to get back in this series Atlanta will have to take a page out of the Celtics book and overcome some major adversity.

“I told our players, ‘this is what playoff basketball is all about,’” Drew said. “It will be a chess match. It’s about adjustments. It’s about when you are on the other end of the stick—really seeing what you are made of.”