Nate Robinson struggled at times as a fill-in for Rajon Rondo. Semih Erden started at center and didn’t grab a single rebound. By halftime, a Celtics team with only 10 healthy players was down to a local nine.
None of it mattered.
The Celtics won their 12th game in a row with smoke and mirrors Thursday night, downing the also-depleted Atlanta Hawks 102-90 at TD Garden.
The Celtics led 22-20 after the first, holding the Hawks to 36-percent shooting. The Celtics led despite using their entire 10-man rotation in the quarter, a rarity for a team that sometimes goes entire games without using 10 players. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Robinson had five points apiece in the period.
A scuffle in the second quarter could have led to more. At the 5:43 mark. Glen Davis fouled Atlanta’s Zaza Pachulia, then held onto Pachulia a little longer than warranted, earning a Flagrant-1 foul. Garnett — who put an epic pick on Pachulia in the 2008 playoffs — was nearby and argued for Davis to no avail. Tensions did not escalate further. The Celtics were out-shot in the second quarter but went into halftime with the lead thanks to six Atlanta turnovers.
Before the start of the second half, the Celtics learned that Von Wafer had a sore lower back and would not return to the game. Wafer’s injury left the Celtics with just nine healthy players, shortening Doc Rivers’s rotation by default.
After not playing in the second quarter, Erden played nine minutes in the third, giving Davis valuable rest. While Erden’s minutes were crucial, his contribution on the glass was not. Erden finished with 0 rebounds in 23 minutes, though he did have 10 points.
The Celtics held a 75-69 lead after three, with Pierce and Garnett both on the bench to start the fourth quarter. Doc Rivers waited just over three minutes to bring in one of his closers, putting Pierce back on the court at the 8:50 mark. Garnett returned about a minute later. The makeshift starting lineup (with Davis in for Erden) closed the game on a 23-15 run and won running away.
1:53 4th quarter, Celtics 100-86: Ray Allen with the dagger. This one’s over.
5:59 4th quarter, Celtics 89-78: Nate Robinson hits a three, then performs his signature celebration move. The starters should finish this one out, with Davis in for Erden.
7:03 4th quarter, Celtics 84-77: Pierce and now Garnett are back into the game.
8:50 4th quarter, Celtics 79-75: Paul Pierce went to the scorer’s table to check in but was called back when the Celtics scored. KG’s only played 24 minutes, surprised he’s not going back in yet.
End 3d quarter, Celtics 75-69: This one isn’t going to come easily. Paul Pierce just went to the bench for a rest. If the Celtics can keep the lead with Pierce (30 minutes) and Garnett (24 minutes) out it looks good for them. At what point does Doc Rivers bring in his closers?
2:33 3d quarter, Celtics 71-63: Semih Erden comes out, Davis comes in. Erden’s played 15 minutes and hasn’t gotten a rebound.
5:09 3d quarter, Celtics 64-56: The starters are still in and paying dividends for Boston. Paul Pierce just hit his first three-pointer of the game to give the Celtics their largest lead.
By the way, they’re filming some scenes for “The Association” in the stands behind us here. Look for a guy with a “No Santa for Atlanta” sign on your TV very soon.
9:31 3d quarter, Celtics 52-47: Nice little run by the Celtics to open the half. The C’s are down to nine players. Von Wafer has a sore lower back and will not return.
Halftime, Celtics 44-43:Great ending to the half by the Celtics as Kevin Garnett gets a couple of baskets in transition to fire up the crowd. The building lacked energy until a few minutes ago. People are probably sleeping. It’s late.
Glen Davis is going to be the key to this game. The worst thing that could happen to the Celtics tonight is if Davis gets another flagrant foul and is tossed from the game. He’s played 18 minutes, and the Celtics need at least 18 more. Davis leads the Celtics with 10 points, while Garnett has 9.
5:43 2d quarter, Hawks 36-34:Glen Davis gets called for a Flagrant-1 foul for his grab of Pachulia. Kevin Garnett was nearby too and tried to argue for Davis to no avail. Good job by both sides not to escalate it, though. Remember that pick Garnett set on Pachulia in the ’08 playoffs? Epic.
See, Hawks games are still fun.
8:09 2d quarter, Celtics 35-28A lineup of Marquis Daniels, Von Wafer, Glen Davis, Ray Allen, and Luke Harangody has given up the lead. Not that that should be surprising. Jeff Teague is killing the Celtics with 11 points and 2 steals.
End 1st quarter, Celtics 22-20 Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody both made appearances for the Celtics at the end of the quarter. Bradley struggled mightily to defend Jeff Teague, who elevated for two dunks. The Celtics only have 10 players available.
Good defense by the C’s so far, holding Atlanta to 36-percent shooting.
2:44 1st quarter, Celtics 17-14 Zaza Pachulia comes in just as Kevin Garnett comes out. Darn it, that coul have been fun.
Semih Erden’s got two fouls now. Glen Davis better be ready to play 40 minutes.
5:46 1st quarter, Hawks 11-10: The Celtics avoided disaster in the first six minutes of the first. No one got injured, no one’s in foul trouble.
8:02 1st quarter, Hawks 8-7: Semih Erden takes a feed from KG, spins, and throws down a dunk over Al Horford. Good aggressive play by the Celtics big man. A little easier for him tonight not guarding Amare Stoudemire.
Pregame: Late tip tonight catering to those of you out West, as well as vampires. If you can’t stay up, check back later for updates on the blog.