With 8:41 to go in the 4th quarter Thursday night Kevin Garnett knocked down a turnaround jumper with a hand in his face for about the millionth time in the game (he finished with a season high 28 points), and Boston led 74-65. The Celtics seemed to be pulling away. But then they started to look old. And tired. And slow. Over the next six and a half minutes Boston scored just 2 points, and after Al Horford made an off balance runner in the lane with 2:22 left on the clock the Hawks led by three, 79-76. At that point I was about as nervous as I’ve ever been sitting in section 8 at the Garden.
But the old guys had just enough left in the tank. They clamped down on defense and didn’t allow Atlanta to make another field goal the rest of the way. Pierce made a tough driving layup, KG swished another contested turnaround jump shot, and the Celtics survived 83-80.
Towards the end of the regular season Doc rested all his guys and gave away a game in Atlanta that might have given Boston home court advantage in this series. He basically said “screw it, we’ll beat them anyway, my stars need the rest.” As it turned out he was right, and now part of me thinks they should take the same approach vs Philly in round two. Pierce, Allen, and Bradley are all suffering from nagging injuries and haven’t looked right the past couple games, and Garnett has got to be exhausted. Maybe the Celtics should rest all four of them and tank Game 1 tonight against the Sixers. I’m totally convinced they can still handle Philly without home court advantage and trailing 1-0 (it’s exactly what just happened against Atlanta), and those extra couple days off could make a big difference in the long run.
And one more thing of note, two of the last three times the Celtics have defeated the Hawks in the playoffs they have gone on to win the NBA Championship.
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