Giving second chances is sometimes a good idea in the legal system, but never in Basketball. The Celtics gave the Hawks far too many of them last night and fell, 97-86, at the Garden.
Atlanta dominated the boards, 47-29, and outscored Boston, 22-4, in second-chance points.
The Celtics rank only 28th in the NBA in rebounding, but they were dominated on the boards even more than usual. Too often, they played tough defense, only to have the Hawks tap the rebound of a missed shot back out to teammates, giving themselves another chance to score. Atlanta grabbed 16 offensive rebounds to Boston's six.
"It is demoralizing," Kevin Garnett admitted, "but what are you going to do? Are you going to stop? That's not the way you play around here. You're not going to start any kind of trend like that."
The Hawks aren't bigger than the Celtics , but they're quicker and more athletic. They also turned Boston's 15 turnovers into 21 points.
Paul Pierce led Boston with 24 points, six after he sat out the final 3:15 of the third quarter with a bruised left knee. Pierce isn't sure how the knee will feel tonight when the Celtics visit Indiana.
"The knee is a little tender," Pierce said. "I'm just going to rest it. Usually it kicks in when you slow down. So hopefully, it's not too bad."
Garnett scored 14, but grabbed only five rebounds after collecting just four in a win over Utah Wednesday.
"Rebounding is a group effort," Garnett said. "It starts with the bigs so the bigs got to do a better job of just that."
Kendrick Perkins was the only Celtic who had any luck under the boards, grabbing nine rebounds to go with his 14 points.
Rajon Rondo dished out nine assists, but took only four shots, scored just four points and missed two foul shots in the fourth quarter. He has missed his last seven free throws. The Celtics made only 1 of 15 3-pointers.
The Hawks took the Celtics to seven games in the opening round of the playoffs two years ago, but the Celtics had dominated them during the regular season. The Celtics had beaten Atlanta seven regular-season games in a row overall and nine straight in Boston, including playoffs. Joe Johnson shot poorly during those games, but he paced the Hawks with 24 points last night. Jamal Crawford poured in 18 off the bench. Al Horford had 12 rebounds and a game-high 13 boards.
Zaza Pachulia's two fouls shots capped a 10-2 spurt to open the fourth quarter and built Atlanta's lead to double digits, 82-72, with 8:24 left. The Celtics never got closer than seven.
The Celtics fell to 8-2, and Atlanta improved to 7-2. Marquis Daniels lost his dribble off the back of a Hawk, and Atlanta converted the turnover into two Josh Smith free throws that pushed Atlanta's lead to 70-64 late in the third quarter. The quarter ended with the Hawks on top, 72-70.
The Celtics led, 42-41, at the half behind 10 points each from Pierce and Garnett. The Hawks hung tough by outrebounding the Celtics , 25-10, and outscoring them, 8-0, in second-chance points. Perkins grabbed five boards, but the rest of the Celtics combined for only seven - as many as Horford. Garnett snared only one rebound in the first half.
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