NBA Game Summary - Boston at Atlanta
(Wednesday, December 17th)
Final Score: Boston 88, Atlanta 85
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Kevin Garnett scored 10 of his 18 points in the final quarter and hit the go-ahead hook shot with 30.8 seconds left, as Boston won its 16th straight game, 88-85, over the Atlanta Hawks.
The Celtics moved to 24-2 on the season, which is approaching the best-ever for a team before suffering their third loss in a season. The 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers and 1969-70 New York Knicks were both 26-2 before losing their third game. Both of those teams went on to win the NBA title.
Boston's current streak is now tied for third-best in franchise history and tops since a team-record 18-game surge set February 24 - March 26, 1982.
Garnett, who also had eight rebounds, made all five of his shots from the field in the fourth quarter. Paul Pierce, who left Monday's 100-91 win over Utah in the final minute with a left knee injury, also had 18 points for the Celtics.
"It means that we won," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "It was nice to beat them, obviously. We didn't play great in a lot of ways. We just kept grinding the game out."
Kendrick Perkins had eight points and 10 rebounds, and came up with a huge block in the final half-minute for Boston. Ray Allen scored 16 and Rajon Rondo chipped in 15 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
Joe Johnson had a game-high 20 points, but missed a potential tying free throw with 2.7 seconds remaining for the Hawks, who had a three-game win streak broken. Josh Smith had 14 points and seven rebounds, while Marvin Williams totaled 16 points and eight boards. Mike Bibby had 14 points.
"Our guys know we can play with Boston or anyone else," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson. "We have been playing some good basketball lately. I hope this does not put us in a tailspin, but I would put my money on my team."
Atlanta nearly beat the defending NBA champions on November 12, but lost 103-102 in Boston on Pierce's shot in the final second. Wednesday brought a similar fate in a rematch of a seven-game first-round playoff series last year. Atlanta had won all three of those postseason games at home.
"It was great for us to get a win, especially because we struggled here so much in the playoffs," said Rondo. "We struggled offensively tonight, but we were able to grind it out in the end. The first team that was able to get a stop was the one that would win this game, and that's what it was."
Johnson's two free throws provided the Hawks with an 84-83 edge with 48.7 seconds left, but Garnett then turned and used his right hand to sink a hook shot in the lane.
Johnson then had his shot blocked at the other end by Perkins, and Rondo went 1-of-2 at the foul line with 9.1 seconds to go.
Down 86-84, Johnson drove to the hoop and was fouled with 2.7 seconds left. After making the first shot, his second attempt clanked off the heel of the rim. Garnett got the rebound, and Allen sank both attempts with 0.7 seconds to go.
After a timeout, Bibby missed a desperation three-point attempt off the front of the rim.
Atlanta halted Cleveland's 11-game win streak Saturday night at Philips Arena, but came up short of denying the Celtics.
"We can play with anybody," said Smith. "Up there was a one-point loss, down here was a three-point loss. We just have to keep our heads up and know that the season is not over just because of this game."
The Celtics, who haven't lost since a 94-85 setback to the Denver Nuggets on November 14 at TD Banknorth Garden, won their 10th straight on the road and dealt the Hawks just their second home defeat (9-2) all season.
"It was a defensive situation for us," said Allen. "They were scoring. I can't say that we had a great rhythm on offense, but we scored when we needed to. We got stops when we needed to."
Boston led 22-21 after the first quarter, but Atlanta rallied with a 15-4 spurt in the second, grabbing a six-point advantage. The Hawks led 43-42 at the half, and the teams played in close quarters throughout the third, with Atlanta carrying a 62-59 edge into the final 12 minutes.
Smith had the highlight of the fourth quarter, soaring past Perkins and using his left hand for a thunderous jam, tying the game at 77 with 3:50 remaining.
The Celtics will begin a three-game homestand on Friday by taking on Chicago...Atlanta continues its eight-game homestand against Golden State Friday...Boston has beaten Atlanta five straight times in the regular season...Al Horford had eight points and 11 boards for the Hawks...Perkins had four blocks...Atlanta shot 36.7 percent from the field, compared to 44.2 percent for Boston.
12/17 23:09:21 ET