The Boston Celtics looked pretty much down and out following an embarrassing 89-72 loss in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Atlanta Hawks last Tuesday night. It was their lowest point total of the season, lowest shooting percentage of the season, and the team even set an NBA playoff record for the lowest-scoring first quarter of a game, putting up just 7 points in the game’s opening 12 minutes.
But a little home cooking proved to be exactly what the doctor ordered. A 111-103 Game 3 win was followed by a 104-95 overtime win in Game 4 to send the series back to Atlanta for Game 5 all even and guarantee at least one more game at TD Garden this spring.
On Friday night in Game 3, it was star point guard Isaiah Thomas who, as has become the norm, carried the Celtics to the victory. His 42 points was a career-high in both the playoffs and regular season, and made him just the ninth Celtic in franchise history to put up 40 or more points in a playoff game.
The first quarter looked entirely different than it did in Game 2, as the Celtics outscored the Hawks 37-20 in the period to jump out to the big lead. The Celtics led by as much as 20 early in the second quarter before Atlanta started chipping away. Eventually, the Hawks tied the game late in the third quarter and even took a brief one-point lead early in the fourth, before the Celtics pulled away, allowing just 5 points in the final 6:13 of the game to secure the win.
Renewed life in the series brought an extra buzz to TD Garden for Game 4, and again the Celtics didn’t disappoint. Battling back from a 16-point third quarter deficit resulting from a 14-0 Hawks run to open the second half, the Celtics stormed all the way back to take the lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. The rest of the quarter was an all-out sprint to the buzzer, and after Thomas’ strong defense prevented Hawks guard Jeff Teague from getting off a shot at the horn, the game went to overtime tied at 92. The overtime period was all Celtics, as the team outscored Atlanta 12-3 in the extra session to even up the series at two game apiece.
Thomas again led the way for the Celtics with 28 points in the victory. Guard Marcus Smart stepped up in a huge way for the Celtics as well, coming off the bench to put up 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. The 20 points included a stretch where he scored 11 straight points for Boston midway through the fourth quarter, including a pair of clutch 3-pointers.
The series will resume on Tuesday night in Atlanta for Game 5, with tip-off scheduled for 8:30 p.m. The winner of Game 5 will have a chance on Thursday night at TD Garden to advance to a second round date with the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. Tickets to Game 6 at TD Garden between the Celtics and Atlanta Hawks are available HERE.