It took overtime but the Celtics pulled it out. Boston held off Atlanta 90-84 Friday night to win game 3 and take the series lead 2-1. Boston regained 2 starters to the lineup and both performed well. Rajon Rondo had his 7th career playoff triple double his first game back from suspension. Ray Allen, who returned from injury, added 13 points. Despite some turnover ridden basketball and a valiant effort by the Hawks, Boston takes the lead in this series going into Sunday’s game 4 match-up.
Snap Fast Reaction
Even though Rondo ended up completing his triple double in Rajon style (17-14-12), he turned the ball over 6 times in this game. If you are a Boston fan, you are glad to see as the game digressed, his play got better. Paul Pierce struggled from the floor all night going 3 for 12 while still managing to get 21 points due do his 14 for 14 from the free throw line.
Atlanta played hard. Even though it started as a very ugly offensive game, they fought back. Going on a 14-4 run late in the 4th quarter. More amusing was that if you watched the first half of Friday night’s game, you would think you were watching Tracy McGrady circa 2004. Tracy scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half, carrying the Hawks’ offensive load. After halftime Coach Larry Drew even had enough confidence in him that McGrady ended up playing 40 minutes, the most he has all season.
Celtics Star of The Game
Big stage, big game, and nationally televised? You bet your sweet potatoes that Rondo put up a triple double. His game early on was all kinds of horrible, but as the game progressed he seemed to turn it on. Rajon is still the motor that runs the Celtics boat and you can tell. Boston did not start to run a free flowing offense until he got his act together. The 6 turnovers are not something to be overlooked, but you can attribute it to this being his first game back and pressing. While Paul Pierce was off, it was up to Rondo and Kevin Garnett to pick up the slack. Garnett finished with 20 points and 13 boards to help Rondo keep the Celtics going.
Hawks Star of The Game
Joe Johnson scored 29 points and pulled down 8 rebounds to lead the way for Atlanta. Johnson is paid like a superstar player and he almost played like one tonight. Despite his 29 points, he failed to live up to the $100 million dollar plus contract in the clutch as he made just 1 field goal in overtime. It seemed all the way until late in the 4th quarter that Johnson was playing well. Then the pressure kicked in and he just faded away.
Josh Smith Could of Helped
Boston only had 2 players really going offensively tonight. One if you factor in Rondo’s horrible shooting night. That would just leave Kevin Garnett putting Boston and their offensive struggles on his back. He did not disappoint, getting his 20 points, efficiently shooting 50% from the floor, while nabbing 13 rebounds. An athletic big with some size could have helped contained Garnett’s offense and keep him off the boards. It’s a shame that Atlanta doesn’t have a player like that. Going into next season, they should look for a small forward/power forward hybrid to help in these kind of situations. If they were to build a perfect model, he would be 6’9 with a stat line of 19-9. I mean it would be nice….
What The Game Means
Either Atlanta is not that bad or Boston is rusty. It could also mean that the Celtics are really not that good, but the latter would be no fun. I’m going to go with Boston is rusty. They were getting 2 players back, Allen and Rondo, and needed to reintegrate as a team. Boston played about as bad as they could and still came away with a victory. Don’t count on Paul Pierce having such a horrible night from the floor for the rest of the series either.
The Hawks are showing toughness. For a team that is highly criticized for a lack of mental toughness, they have been showing some guts. They played about as bad as humanly possible. For long stretches they were depending on Tracy McGrady and Eric Dampier, and this is 2012! Jeff Teague looked phenomenal, scoring 23 points, and for most of the game he actually outplayed Rondo.
The Hawks need to get better offensively. Josh Smith also needs to rejoin the lineup. The Jeff Teague and Rondo match-up has somehow become a wash and they need to take advantage of it. Smith and Johnson should be their offense all game. Josh needs to get back in a uniform and Johnson needs to know that there is more than 3 1/2 quarters of basketball in the playoffs. It really seems from a talent standpoint that Atlanta is right there with the Celtics.
Boston needs to regain their chemistry and try to put this series to sleep. The Hawks are giving them a much tougher series than anyone has expected. The longer this series goes the more miles gets put on those aging superstars. Avery Bradely got hurt in the 3rd quarter and did not return. Hopefully he is okay and will be ready to contribute for game 4.
Game 4 will be 7pm Sunday on TNT. Tune in and then come to Sir Charles for a recap with your good old friend Joe.
Joe Nardone is a Writer/Blogger for Sir Charles In Charge. You can follow him on the twitter machine @JosephNardone