What a difference two years makes. The days when the Atlanta
Hawks were just pack of young wolves biting at the heels of a veteran Celtics
team on its way to an NBA championship seem like another lifetime.
Al Horford, their rookie of the year candidate two years, is now an all-star. Their young
dunk-contest Their all-star scorer Joe Johnson is now a veteran who went from
taking all the shots to simply making all the big ones.
But the biggest difference was easily Jamal Crawford, the
hired gun who pumped big shot after big shot into the Celtics in last night’s
100-91 win. His 28-point performance seemed to single-handedly guarantee Atlanta’s fourth win of
the season over the Celtics, completing the Hawksfirst season sweep of the Celtics since
1998-99 and it was the first four-game sweep since 1995-96.
The difference in the Celtics was simply time. Two more
years of age, tow more years of wear and team. With 40,000 minutes worth of
hard miles on him, he wasn’t the same player that averaged 20 points and 10
rebounds in the 2008 playoff series. He labored for 15 points on 5 of 11 shooting,
fighting for six rebounds in his fourth game since returning from a
Paul Pierce was the Celtics main source of offense, scoring 25
points on 11 of 15 shooting, knocking down 13 threes.
The Celtics jumped ahead early, behind a 12-point first
quarter from Paul Pierce. They jumped ahead 16-7. But they turned the ball over
seven times in the second quarter, giving the Hawks nine easy points.
Crawford, hitting wild shot after wild shot from a half-court
buzzer beater at the end of the first quarter to a ridiculous floater in the
second, was absolutely unsolvable. He dotted the night by breezing in for an
uncontested dunk that made it, and essentially put the Celtics to rest.
The circumstances didn’t help the Celtics any. They were
playing on back-to-back nights after losing 96-94 to Orlando in a game that went to the wire. And
with the Lakers coming to the Garden Sunday, things don’t get any easier.
But after taking three losses in a single month to an
Atlanta team they viewed as more of a pest than a peer, the Hawks responded on
the floor and their PA announcer did so as they walked off, asking “Is it a
Jamal Crawford just got loose for possibly his easiest bucket of the night, a dainty two-hand dunk on the break without a defender in sight. He’s stuck the Celtics for 28 points on 9 of 16 shooting.
85-77, Hawks: The Celtics pushed to make it a one-shot game, but after Rasheed Wallace clanged a wide-open 3 off the back iron, Joe Johnson came down, spun off Rajon Rondo, and hit a turnaround over his fellow Eastern Conference All-Star. The shot put the Celtics in an 8-point hole.
74-71, Hawks: Paul Pierce was grabbing at his right knee a little after turning the ball over. At the next dead ball, Doc Rivers put Tony Allen in the game.
72-66, Hawks: While Paul Pierce was shooting free throws, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo went over to Doc Rivers and pointed out how wide open Rasheed Wallace was. The very next possession, the ball swung his way courtesy of Rondo. He drilled the 3-ball, cutting the lead to 6.
63-55, Hawks: Sort of an ugly and confusing situation here. Josh Smith, who made the bitter beer face in the first half when Kendrick Perkins got away with a travel and scored a lay-up, wrapped Perkins up hard when he tried to go up again moments ago.
Smith was whistled for a flagrant. Trying to shake Smith off, Perkins appeared to swing his arm. He picked up a technical. Jamal Crawford knocked down the free throw. Hawks coach Mike Woodson, apparently arguing the flagrant call for Smith, was whistled for a tech. Pierce made the free throw. And finally, Perkins went to the line and hit the two free throws for the flagrant.
62-52, Hawks: The Cs managed to get to the free throw line and close it to single-digits, but a Maurice Evans three-ball put it back at 10.
53-41, Hawks: They’ve got the weather report up on the jumbotron here in Phillips, and I’d say there’s a 30 percent chance Rasheed Wallace gets another technical. As the Celtics went to their locker room for the half, Rasheed stopped to get the attention of one of the refs, telling him, “You better talk to him.” The “him” he was talking about was Matt Boland, who had hit Wallace with a tech early in the second quarter (his 13th).
The Cs are down 12, but they’re 7-4 when they trail at the half. So nothing’s decided.
Head coach Doc Rivers is probably doubling down on that “hit” on Jamal Crawford, who’s got a game-high 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting. The Celtics really are making him look like Dwyane Wade. Halfcourt buzzer-beaters. Wild lay-ups. Three-balls.
There was a mini-debate in Atlanta about where Crawford was more of an All-Star than Joe Johnson, and tonight he’s making his case.
53-39, Hawks, 1:18: Before the game Ray Allen compared the Hawks having Jamal Crawford on the bench to “cooking the books.” He’s right in the sense that having Crawford as a sixth man is pretty unfair. He’s got 16 points already, including a ridiculous floater.He just sliced through the Cs defense for a gorgeous lay-in on top of that. As Allen called put it,
they’ve got a starter coming off the bench.
43-32, Hawks: Be sure to look out for Josh Smith on SportsCenter. He’ll be the guy flying through the lane for a disgusting two-hand flush. Paul Pierce has a game-high 12 for the Celtics, and subsequently he’s also got a double team to deal with. The Celtics are losing the rebounding battle 19-15. Perkins has almost half the Celtics boards with seven.
41-30, Hawks: Al Horford just hit Kendrick Perkins with a pretty shake and got a turnaround J from the elbow. He’s got 8 points and six boards.
39-28, Hawks: It’s all happening so quickly. The Hawks went on a 12-2 run, sparked by of all people Zaza Pachulia. Rasheed Wallace was hit with a tech, his 13th of the season. The atmostphere in the arena seems frantic, which probably only helps the Hawks. Tony Allen’s on the floor with the starters.
Welcome to Phillips Arena …
… where Richard Seymour’s in the building, so is WWE’s Ted Dibiase and the Celtics are up 16-13.
There’s a lot going on. The Celtics are trying to rebound, though a back-to-back will make it tough. Mike Woodson has no eyebrows. There’s a hit out on the Hawks’ newly appointed Celtics killer Jamal Crawford.
And for what it’s worth, five of the Eastern Conference’s 14 all-starts are in this game alone and Woodson was trying to make a push for Josh Smith, should a player get hurt or decide to pull out.
In related affairs, Jeff Teague (a 6-2 rookie) just swatted Rasheed Wallace ( a 7-foot veteran) and set up a shot for the Crawford the Celtics killer to knock down a shot that tied it at 18.
In even more related affairs, right after Paul Pierce hit one of those ice cold jumpers to seemingly give the Cs a 22-20 lead going into the end of the quarter Jamal Crawford just drilled a half-court shot at the buzzer — all nets — as if it were something he just rolls out of bed and does before breakfast.
He’s got 8 through a quarter, treating the Cs like lunch and dinner.