It wasn't pretty, but it was a victory, and that is all Doc Rivers cares about as the Celtics head into a four-day break before their next game.
"It was a win," said Rivers of the Celtics' 106-94 victory over the Antoine Walker-led Atlanta Hawks last night in front of a sellout crowd of 18,624 at the FleetCenter.
Walker got his numbers: 43 minutes, 30 shots (including 0 for 5 beyond the arc), 17 rebounds, and 8 assists, but the Celtics got the W, moving a game behind the first-place Knicks in the anemic Atlantic Division.
Ricky Davis had a stellar evening, coming off the bench to score a game-high 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting, and gave his teammates a needed shot in the arm on several occasions when Atlanta came back after Celtic runs to make it a game.
Paul Pierce played inspired basketball against his good friend and former teammate, Walker, scoring 21 points, tying a career high with 15 rebounds, and dishing out 7 assists.
"Yeah, it's always fun," said Pierce of the reunion with Walker. "We had a good time out there playing against each other."
Pierce said the Celtics need to avoid the bad stretches. "We had some lapses here and there when they cut the lead," he said.
His coach agreed. "I didn't think we played great," said Rivers. "I thought we played good in stretches. I thought we had several opportunities where I thought we could have put them away earlier and made it easier on ourselves."
The Celtics' second team, except for Davis, did not exhibit any energy in the early going, forcing Rivers to go with the starters for much of the game.
Three runs proved to be the difference.
The first opened the game, an 11-2 surge over 3:27. Later in the first quarter, after Atlanta fought its way back to make it 15-12, Boston went on an 11-0 run to widen the lead to 14.
The Hawks continued to battle, and with six minutes remaining they had cut the Celtics' lead to 5 at 90-85, after Tyronn Lue and Predrag Drobnjak (20 points) connected on back-to-back 3-pointers.
"I thought we played hard," said Atlanta coach Mike Woodson. "We kept fighting back. I thought we had a chance when we cut it to 5. I thought we had a legitimate shot, but then . . . "
But then the Celtics came to life and Pierce elevated his game -- playmaking, shooting, and defending.
"I thought Paul down the stretch was phenomenal, leadership-wise," said Rivers. "He did take a couple of shots, but I thought it was more that he was making plays. And the guys trusted him to make plays instead of coming to the ball. They spaced the floor, they let him see the floor."
Rivers was impressed with Davis's play as well. "He was great," said the coach. "He came in, he gave us great energy early. You need that off the bench. I didn't know he had 30 [until after the game]. I thought the second unit came in with no energy in the first half. Ricky did, but no one helped him."
Davis, who was removed from the starting lineup after seven games this season, doesn't mind his new role.
"It doesn't matter, coming off the bench, starting. Wherever you need me, that's where I'll be," he said.
The Celtics, meanwhile, remain world-beaters at home. The victory improved their record to 12-6 at the FleetCenter, where they are winners of eight of their last nine.
"You should win every home game," said Rivers. "I don't care if it's the world champions. I don't care who it is. And I think our guys are getting used to it."
The Hawks missed an opportunity to win back-to-back games. Atlanta, which beat Milwaukee Tuesday, is the only NBA team not to win consecutive games this season. The Hawks are 2-13 away from their nest.