Al Horford has not played since January. Monday night however, he was Atlanta’s most important piece, scoring 19 points and making a huge defensive play at the end of the game. With 10 seconds left in regulation, Rajon Rondo stole a pass and was one layup away from putting this series to an end. Instead, Horford trapped him on the sideline and forced Rondo to make an ill advised pass. The Hawks won the game 87-86, bringing this series to game 6. Boston has the series lead 3-2.
Snap Fast Reaction
Give Atlanta credit, they could have just thrown in the towel. That is their reputation, when times get tough, to fade away. While in the first half the game was close, Atlanta did not seem emotionally invested into the game. But, as the game progressed, the on the verge of elimination Hawks fought the Celtics tooth and nail. All 5 of the Hawks’ starters ended up in double figures for the game.
This was not a typical Doc Rivers’s led team performance. Rivers is known for his late game management of the Celtics. I sing Rondo’s praises as much as anybody around. But that turnover with just 10 seconds left was totally unacceptable. Doc trusted his ill-tempered point guard in a fast break situation, in hindsight he was wrong to do so. Also, Paul Pierce was having an awful performance and sat most of the 3rd quarter. The Celtics were doing relatively fine with him on the bench. Rivers decided to put him back in the 4th period anyway. Pierce had a plus/minus of -13. It is easy looking back now saying they should have set-up some kind of play. Or that Rivers should have given it a go, with his most clutch player on the bench. But that is the perk of talking about what they should have done after the game.
Hawks Star of The Game
Al Horford had 19 points and worked hard for his 11 rebounds. Coach Larry Drew rolled the dice in this elimination game playing Horford 31 minutes. That is a ton for a guy who has not played much this season. Usually a player has to be worked back into the rotation. Facing the threat of going home, Drew let the big man play himself into shape. Not only did Horford have the huge defensive play at the end of the game to secure a Hawks victory. He also scored the Hawks’ last 2 buckets of the game. So while Joe Johnson wanted more touches, but does not want to be clutch. And Josh Smith is busy being whatever it is Josh Smith is trying to be. Al Horford decided to be Atlanta’s closer.
Celtics Star of The Game
Ray Allen makes a lot of jump shots. Monday night was no different. Going 5 for 10 from the floor and finishing with 15 in the game. It seemed whenever Atlanta was ready to go on a run, Allen was there to put it to a halt. It is amazing to see a player like Paul Pierce throw up horrible shot after horrible shot. Being draped by 2 defenders, still trying to shoot over them. On the other side, Ray Allen only takes good shots. It seemed like every time he took a shot the defender was 7 feet away.
Rondo is the Celtics best player. He played another good game Monday night as well, scoring 13 to go with his 12 assists. But the turnover with just 10 seconds to go was all on him. I tried to pass the buck to Doc Rivers before. But let’s be honest, your best player has the ball with a chance to win, you go for it. Rondo dribbled himself into a situation where little success was probable. A player with his talent and court awareness to basically put himself in a situation to fail is mind boggling. I don’t doubt Rondo will bounce back from this play. But if Boston somehow finds itself losing this series, between the suspension and the turnover, all the blame will fall on Rajon.
What The Game Means
Atlanta played against type. Most people think of the Hawks as a soft team. Undoubtedly this game alone did not change their minds, but it’s a start. The Hawks could have easily folded up like a lawn chair and given the game away. Instead they fought back all night and at every turn. I still don’t have an ounce of faith in this Hawks team, nor should anyone. Joe Johnson is a shooting guard who was complaining about his “touches” in game 4. A position in which you virtually touch the ball every possession. Josh Smith is a complete knucklehead. It took the Hawks all series, and a battered Al Horford later, to look like they even care if they win this series. Do give them credit for winning game 5. Just don’t bank on them doing it in game 6.
I fully expect Boston to put away the Hawks in game 6. Doc Rivers and the bunch are likely not happy they couldn’t get the kill Monday night. Atlanta is a talented team, giving them some confidence is not in the best interest for the Boston faithful. The good news is that Boston’s best offensive player, played his worst game. Paul Pierce just looked wrong and horrible. Whether it was his rolled ankle that kept him from being the Pierce we know. Or if it was his iffy shot selection. Either way don’t expect the game going forward. Pierce has been known to put games away in the playoffs. 2 bad performances in a row are very unlikely.
This is man up or shut up time for Atlanta. Only trailing by one game, the Hawks can change the way people think about them with 2 more wins. Do you or I believe it will happen? No, but it doesn’t matter if the Hawks go out there and win the series. Just going talent for talent on each team’s roster, the Hawks are just as good as Boston. The only thing they are missing is a brain and a heart. So unless they can fit a trip into The Land of Oz before game 6, this series is a wrap. A smart and hungry Boston over a bluh Atlanta Hawks squad in game 6.
Game 6 will be televised on TNT at 8pm. Tune in then head over to Sir Charles for a recap.
Joseph Nardone is a Writer/Blogger for Sir Charles In Charge. You can follow him on the twitter machine@JosephNardone