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Saturday, January 30, 2010
Postgame notes: Can't stop Crawford

By Chris Forsberg



ATLANTA -- A collection of news and notes after the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Boston Celtics, 100-91, Friday night at Philips Arena. Check out the video above for reaction from the Boston locker room:

Looking for 'hit,' Celtics strike out against Crawford

The Celtics entered Friday's game with a simple game plan: Slow Jamal Crawford. Boston center Kendrick Perkins went so far as to joke the team had a "hit" out on Atlanta's prized offseason acquisition, hoping some of Boston's trademark physical play would take him out of his game. Instead, the Celtics struck out looking.

Crawford might have changed the entire face of the game when he buried a midcourt heave at the end of the first quarter, giving Atlanta both a lead it would relinquish for only a fleeting moment and all the momentum heading into the second quarter, where the Hawks opened a lead as big as 11 and Boston never recovered.

Crawford, who had been averaging 18 points per game against the Celtics in three previous victories this season, had 18 points in less than 18 minutes at the intermission. That forced Boston to commit extra defenders in the second half, and, in turn, Joe Johnson picked the Celtics apart.

"When they start double-teaming like that, I just try to find my teammates," said Crawford, who finished with a team-high 28 points, while Johnson kicked in 27 more. "[The Celtics have] got to pick their poison. Do they want me to score, or do they want my teammates to score? One's going to be open, so I'm going to take advantage of what they give me."

The Celtics lamented giving Crawford way too much space.

"We did a poor job on Jamal Crawford," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "We gave them momentum going into the second quarter. On the road, you can't give up shots like [the midcourt heave].

Added coach Doc Rivers: "Right now we have no answer for Crawford."

Both Pierce and Rondo commented after the game that the biggest reason for Atlanta's success this season, even beyond their four-game sweep of the Celtics, has been Crawford.

"I think [the biggest difference is] the addition of Jamal," said Pierce. "He's probably the best sixth man in basketball. He's a contender for the All-Star game and that's pretty rare to have a [sixth man in consideration]. He played phenomenal, especially against us. Atlanta made a great move getting him this summer, he's that guy giving them a lift off the bench."

Opposing View: Playoff chatter

For the second straight night, some Celtics players thanked the visitors' locker room attendants and noted that they'd likely cross paths again when the playoffs roll around. It's a notion the Hawks weren't about to disagree with, as Crawford said after the game, "That's a team we're going to see down the line."

While Hawks coach Mike Woodson went so far as to dub Friday's game as a playoff-like battle (the Celtics vehemently disagreed), there was plenty of postgame chatter about Atlanta's four-game sweep and its potential implications on the postseason.

"We have to keep working hard," said Atlanta's Josh Smith. "We can't just be satisfied sweeping one of the best teams in the NBA. We have to stay focused on the prize at hand and that's get a power position in the [playoffs]."

Philips Arena rocked at times, particularly as the Hawks pulled away late. But neither team played with the sharpness that you might expect from a postseason battle, despite what Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said.

"[It was a] playoff game," said Woodson. "[The referees] let it go both ways. Everybody was banging and bodies were flying around. Our guys stepped up and made plays when they had to make them."

For their part, the Celtics weren't buying it. Boston point guard Rajon Rondo immediately dismissed the notion of a playoff atmosphere, while Kevin Garnett pointed out that opponents often treat the Celtics like defending champions, raising their own play each night based simply on Boston's history of success.

And, despite the sweep, Boston rallied around the idea that, should the two teams meet again in the postseason, the slate is wiped clean.

"You don't get to go to the second round [of the playoffs] when you sweep a team in the regular season," said Rivers. "You get to go to the next game."

Technical Difficulties

For the second straight night, Rasheed Wallace picked up a technical foul.

Wallace got whistled for an offensive infraction away from the ball Friday and, while trying to plead his case, got hit with a technical by referee Matt Boland.

Wallace, who now leads the NBA with 12 technical fouls on the season, earned a technical against Orlando for shouting, "And one," while looking for a foul call after a short jumper. It would seem likely that Wallace would appeal that technical, as he had a similar one rescinded earlier this year against Miami.

Also for the second straight night, Wallace departed without talking to the media.

Wallace had been on better behavior recently, but is now dangerously close to his Not-So-Sweet 16, when every other technical foul carries with it a one-game suspension.

Perkins also moved into double digits with his 10th technical foul of the season when he whacked Smith in the face after enduring a hard foul under the Boston basket (though it likely didn't warrant the flagrant call Smith got tagged with).

The ensuing dust-up led to players being separated and the crowd chanted, "Boston sucks!" as referees sorted out the chaos that also saw Woodson pick up a technical.

Unlike the last meeting when Rivers got ejected after arguing a flagrant call against Glen Davis, Woodson only got one technical, stayed in the game, and Atlanta didn't endure a meltdown in the aftermath.