No matter whether the Hawks and Celtics meet in the playoffs, there's been a sufficient amount of bad blood brewed between the two teams to set up some rather entertaining matchups in the future.Saturday's game at Philips Arena added a bit more fuel to that fire, with double technical fouls on Kevin Garnett and Marvin Williams with 3:51 to play before halftime adding the spice.
The jawing between both teams actually began earlier when Hawks coach Mike Woodson and Celtics center Kendrick Perkins had words as Perkins exited the floor after picking up a foul.
Both sides clearly anticipate seeing the other in the postseason, provided the Hawks lock up their playoff berth this week.
"It wouldn't be an easy series," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the game. "They're athletic as heck. We've struggled with athletic teams -- Charlotte, Philadelphia, Washington. So it would be absolutely a tough matchup. But it's what I told our guys. With what we're trying to achieve, it should be tough and it will be tough. We just have to get ready for that."
The Hawks are expecting as much. And they expect to be an underdog of epic proportions.
"We're a team that has nothing to lose. We're a team that's going to go out there and just fight," Josh Childress said. "No one expects us to win. No one expected us to be in this position to begin with. So if the time comes and we do match up with them, it'll be great on our end.
"We just have to go out there and play. They're the ones with the pressure. They have to beat us because if they don't, it'll be the greatest upset. We just have to go out there and play hard."
CELTICS 99, HAWKS 89: Too bad Doc Rivers didn't leave his starters in.
Had the Boston Celtics coach done so, the Hawks might actually have had a chance to finish what they started months ago and clinch the franchise's first playoff berth in nine seasons.
But Rivers sat Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for the final 12 minutes of Saturday's game, which meant Sam Cassell got a chance to do what he's always done best; take and make huge shots.
Cassell and the Celtics' second-team lit up the Hawks down the stretch to secure a 99-89 win Saturday before an electric sellout crowd at Philips Arena that keeps the Hawks in playoff purgatory for at least a few more days -- their next chance to clinch comes Tuesday night when Orlando comes to town.
Cassell scored 20 huge points off the bench, including 12 during a 15-4 game-closing run to finish off the Hawks, whose magic number to clinch remains one win with two games to play.
"We had the perfect opportunity tonight, with Indiana losing and everything," Josh Smith said, "and we let it slip out of our hands."
Actually, Cassell smacked it out of their hands.
He knocked down shots from all over the floor as one helpless Hawks defender after another tried in vain to contest his shots.
Cassell's final dagger, a 3-pointer with 46.3 seconds left and the Celtics leading 97-89, was punctuated with a crazy dance back to the bench as his teammates went wild at the sight of the veteran doing what he's always done.
"It's funny," said Rivers, whose top-seeded Celtics swept the season series 3-0 over their probable first round playoff opponent, "I told our coaches at halftime that I think we have a better chance to win with our second unit. You could see in the third quarter that our starters' energy was low, so we went with the bench, and Sam and Tony (Allen) came up big for us."