(20-23) 111 – 123 (25-18)
K. Korver (ATL): 27 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl, 2 blk
R. Rondo (BOS): 16 pts, 10 reb, 11 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]
From what I’ve gathered in my years of watching basketball, I’ve noticed that certain games signify certain character traits of a team. Obviously, there will be a wide array of performances that can point their way to a particular emotion for every team, but in rare and ridiculous instances like Friday night’s game, I like to think at least, that it signifies something more than the overcoming of everyday frustration, preparation, and the fatigued body and mind of these players. I like to think, regardless of its validity, that games like THAT, games like the one I just witnessed don’t happen often because a team has to channel something that it often didn’t know it was capable of channeling. There is something about games like this that make you want to believe that it’s more than just Kyle Korver getting hot from three, it’s more than just Jeff Teague changing the pace– and I believe that there is more than that. I can’t really extrapolate or make tangible what that thought is, but in rivalry games where one team (the Celtics) has so often pounded on the other (historically) inferior team (the Hawks), there is some sort of DNA inscribed in that aforementioned inferior unit to finally say “enough!” and overcome obstacles regardless of strenuousness.
Now, for what it’s worth, the Hawks are a better constructed team than the Celtics at this point in time. It’s not rocket science. But there has been a psychological advantage, an unspoken, but yet perfectly understood Boston edge that has exuded Big Brother-esque reactions ever since the 2008 playoff series. The subsequent matches only further contributed to those Bostonian sentiments of superiority. And it looked like it was going to be another lesson, another episode on why the Hawks will always lose to the Celtics regardless of seemingly extraneous factors like age and diminishing individual production of star players. Boston jumped out to a 27-point lead and they led by 19 at the break. This game should have been over. But the Hawks went on an incredible run, AN INCREDIBLE RUN (19-0, I believe it was), to cut into Boston’s lead in the third quarter. The Hawks put their foot down. By the time the third quarter had drawn to a close, the Celtics knew that they were in a blood bath. They knew their psychological advantage was waning, as well as their energy, and the Hawks did well to exploit that.
Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]
Josh Smith: It seems like every game warrants the same reaction to the play of Josh Smith: conflicted. I have conflicting opinions almost every time Smoove touches the ball. He was 3-9 from the free throw line and 7-20 from the field, but his defense down the stretch was spectacular. He failed to effectively create his own shot and often settled for silly faders, but he found others and made a few nice passes, even connecting with Horford on a crucial high-low play near the end of the first overtime. For every positive, there was a negative, but those negatives didn’t seem to matter all that much. Sure, I cringed as 6 of those free throws bounced in the wrong direction, but I marveled at the way he strapped up Paul Pierce on one possession and forced Kevin Garnett into a difficult shot on the next. He truly took on the role of a leader in this game, even though he wasn’t killing it with his scoring. He found open teammates, grabbed tons of rebounds, and played great defense. For the purposes of the Hawks’ comeback, he did just what he needed to do. 7/10
Al Horford: Most of Horford’s misses came in the first half. He opened himself up for some easy looks, but things just weren’t falling into place early. As the second half progressed, Horford became more and more comfortable. He was utilized in the high-post and through that he made some nice passes to the perimeter for open three-pointers. He worked the high-low with Josh Smith and crashed the boards on both ends of the floor. He was the guy, though, that really put the nail in the coffin. His strong performance in the second overtime of the game knocked a tired Celtics team on their back. Teague and Korver ran them until they were tired, and then Al kicked them to the ground. 8/10
Kyle Korver: I’ve seen players get streaky from the perimeter before. I used to love watching JJ Redick at Duke because he would just catch fire from beyond the arc and burry opponents with a barrage of long-range jumpers. Having said all of that, what Korver did was pretty much unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. His stretch from the middle of the third quarter to the end of regulation was phenomenal. He made 8 three-pointers in the second half and forced the Celtics to throw their defensive ace, Avery Bradley, on to him, which opened things up for Teague. Korver also sparked the mini-comeback when the Celtics had re-asserted themselves and led by 10 with just under 4 minutes to go in regulation. Kyle canned two consecutive three-pointers to cut the deficit to 4, and from there the Hawks were able to close things out. Bradley definitely neutralized Korver’s impact as he didn’t score in either of the overtimes and was hounded every time he caught the ball, but his 8-11 three-point shooting performance was so phenomenal that Boston had to devote its entire defensive attention to him. 10/10
Jeff Teague: Korver’s three point shooting will get most of the glory for this game, but Teague was the real difference maker tonight. Once Jeff accelerated the pace of the game, Boston didn’t stand a chance. Teague is a terror in the open court, and when he started playing passing lanes and leaking out into transition, Boston was helpless. He found his teammates on the break created for himself, and if it weren’t for him trying to initiate some of that (albeit unsuccessfully) in the first half, then the Hawks would have been down by much more than 19 at the break. Again, Teague was the guy who set everything into motion and the guy who Boston really had no answer for, regardless of if Bradley or someone else was checking him. 9/10
Ivan Johnson: Other than a really sweet euro-step layup, Ivan’s first quarter was a disaster. He couldn’t keep up defensively or on the boards. However, he provided a nice second-half boost when he scored a quick seven points and tied the game in the third quarter. He only played 18 minutes, which is considerably less time than the other starters, but he did contribute. 5/10