Boston Celtics: Atlanta Hawks

Notebook: Olynyk's career night

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
5:08
PM ET
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk's roller coaster 2013 ended on the upswing.

Olynyk came off the bench to score a career-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting with five assists and four rebounds over 24 minutes, 23 seconds of action during Tuesday's 92-91 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in a New Year's Eve matinee at TD Garden.

The month of December had been a bit of a grind for Olynyk after a severe right ankle sprain sidelined him for 10 games. He entered Tuesday's tilt averaging 3.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists over 13 minutes per game in six appearances since returning from the ankle ailment.

Olynyk made a couple of shots in the first half on Tuesday to help spark an inspired bench effort, and then his natural talents seemed to take over. Half of his six second-half makes came from beyond the 3-point arc as he scored 17 of his points after intermission.

"Any time you see the ball go through the net, it’s a good feeling and your confidence goes up," Olynyk said. "It helps other aspects of your game too. Obviously, you don’t want it to have to be like that. You want to be able to rebound and play defense and pass the ball even if your shot isn’t falling, and that’s what great players do. That’s the level you have to get to, but it’s always great to see one go down."

It's undeniable that Olynyk moved better and played more instinctively on Tuesday.

"I definitely felt more comfortable," he said. "I was moving better off the ankle and stuff. I felt more fluid and back to how I was feeling before."

Later he added, "You’ve got to get back in the flow [after an injury]. It’s not the same. First of all, you don’t feel the same. You’re not moving the same. You don’t have the same push or the same power. So your shot is a little bit off, some here, some there. Your jumping and stuff; defensively. So you’ve kind of got to get back into the swing of things and then get back in that physical presence too because with that ankle, you’re not moving for two weeks. It’s kind of tough."

Olynyk, the 13th pick in June's draft, still has strides to make on the defensive end, but Tuesday's glimpse was a reminder of the potential that shined through at the Orlando Summer League. Even better for Olynyk, his big night came with his father, Ken, and mother, Arlene, courtside for the game.

"He was the Gonzaga killer," teammate Courtney Lee said. "I think it was because somebody in the stands had a Gonzaga pullover and was calling for him. So it got him back going. I’m happy for the young fella."

Read on for a few more notes from Tuesday's game, including another blown lead, Kyle Korver's streak, and Shelvin Mack on Brad Stevens.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Hawks 92, Celtics 91

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
3:20
PM ET


BOSTON -- Rapid Reaction after the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Boston Celtics 92-91 on Tuesday afternoon at TD Garden:

THE NITTY GRITTY
Stop me if you've heard this script before: The Celtics built an early lead (as much as 18 points) only to let the opposition back into the game (Atlanta led by six midway through the third quarter). In fact, it happened twice as the Hawks rallied from another double-digit deficit late in the game. Boston's first unit really struggled as a group and coach Brad Stevens leaned heavily on his reserves, including at the end of the game. Rookie Kelly Olynyk scored a team-high (and career-high) 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting with five assists and four rebounds, while Kris Humphries added a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds). Paul Millsap scored a game-high 34 points on 12-of-19 shooting for the Hawks, while Jeff Teague added 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.

TURNING POINT: GAME OF RUNS
The Hawks utilized a 30-6 run spanning into the second half to surge ahead and it culminated with a driving layup by Teague that had the Hawks out front 54-48. Fortunately for Boston, its second unit started rolling in and stopped the bleeding. The Celtics scored 19 points over the next four minutes (Olynyk and Jordan Crawford doing the heavy lifting) and opened a seven-point lead. Boston was up 11 with 6:28 to go, but no double-digit lead is safe around here. The Hawks roared back, setting up a back-and-forth final three minutes.

TURNING POINT II: SEESAW FINISH
The final 180 seconds saw six lead changes, and a pair of free throws by Teague had the Hawks out front 92-91 with 1:30 to go. Neither side could get anything to fall from there, but Boston utilized an offensive rebound to set up a final possession with 4.2 seconds to play. Crawford missed a jumper at the right elbow at the buzzer.

FEELING A DRAFT
The Celtics are in line to receive the Nets' 2014 first-round draft pick, but Atlanta has the ability to swap picks with Brooklyn based on the Joe Johnson trade. That means Boston will likely end up with the Hawks' pick if the Nets continue to struggle. Boston could have aided its potential draft position, but couldn't secure their second win over the Hawks this season.

LOOSE BALLS
The Celtics held Kyle Korver without a 3-pointer for 42 minutes of Tuesday's game, but he extended his NBA-record triple streak to 101 consecutive games by hitting one from the wing -- while being fouled -- with 6:10 to go. Korver had been 0-for-5 beyond the arc to that point. ... The Celtics rode their bench late in the game, keeping Humphries, Olynyk, and Courtney Lee (11 points) on the floor over starters Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Jared Sullinger. ... Vitor Faverani, Keith Bogans, and MarShon Brooks were all healthy DNPs for Boston.

WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (14-17) close out calendar year 2013 on a loss. Boston went 6-6 in December. The Celtics will watch the ball drop ushering in 2014, and with it comes a game-heavy January in which Boston will play 17 games in 29 days. The Celtics play six of their next seven games on the road, starting with Thursday's visit to Chicago. After a brief return home to play the Pelicans on Friday, Boston heads out west on a five-game road trip with stops in Oklahoma City, Denver, Los Angeles (Clippers), Golden State, and Portland. That's seven games in 10 days that ought to test the Celtics after a lightened, home-heavy December slate.

W2W4: Celtics vs. Hawks (Game 31 of 82)

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
9:00
PM ET
The Boston Celtics (13-17, 8-8 home) host the Atlanta Hawks (17-14, 5-10 away) in a New Year's Eve matinee on Tuesday at TD Garden (1 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

  • NEW-LOOK HAWKS: The Hawks lost center Al Horford recently to a torn pectoral muscle and Brad Stevens noted that's caused them to be even more 3-pointer happy than they typically are. For the season, 3-pointers account for 29.8 percent of Atlanta's field goal attempts (fifth highest in the league). Over the last two games, that number is a staggering 45.3 percent of their total attempts. "Shooting a ton of 3s," Stevens said of the Horford-less Hawks. Later he added, "And they shoot them well. In the last five games, [Paul] Millsap has averaged five shots per game from beyond the arc, [Mike] Scott’s shot 30 times beyond the arc. I mean, they are all shooting, and they are all shooting well and they are all shooting with confidence. I think Coach [Mike] Budenholzer has done a great job with that group all the way through, instilling confidence and instilling idea of ball-movers. They don’t hang onto the ball very long. They keep that ball moving and the best example of that is [Kyle] Korver, because he either catches and shoots, or catches and delivers. But I tell you what, they’ve got a very unselfish, very well put-together team."

  • SPEAKING OF STREAKING KORVER: Korver's NBA record for consecutive games with a 3-pointer reached the century mark the other night. Gushed Stevens: "Kudos to him, what an unbelievable streak. That thing gets tested each time he misses one. It gets tested on the road because no one wants him to hit one, and it gets tested at home because everybody goes, ‘[Gasp], what’s going to happen if he misses another one?’ It’s unbelievable mental toughness to achieve what he’s done." Asked if he'd like to break Korver's streak, Stevens said, "Don’t care where the streak happens, I just want to play well enough to end up on the right side of the [win] column." The Celtics have slipped to fifth in the league in 3-point defense (opponents shooting 33.8 percent beyond the arc).

  • COACH'S SCOUTING REPORT: Here's more Stevens on the Hawks: "First of all, they have multiple elite scoring guards -- Lou Williams is averaging 17 per game in his last five games and is back from the ACL and playing more, because [DeMarre] Carroll is not on the trip. Korver is a really really difficult assignment for anybody in the league, because if you take a breath, you’re dead. And then [Jeff] Teague is playing at such a high level. Then their bench is playing -- obviously I’m biased towards one of those guys [Shelvin Mack] because he played for me in college [at Butler] -- but they are all making shots and they are all shooting it well and they are all playing well."

  • WHAT ELSE?: If the Celtics need extra motivation there's this: The Celtics are set to get the better of the draft picks between the Nets and Hawks this season. Every Atlanta loss might aid one of Boston's picks in June. ... Stevens compared Williams to Rondo, particularly with both working their ways back from ACL injuries. "I’ve known him for a long time and watched him play and always thought extremely high of his ability. And just his mental grit. And I think he’s got a lot of that. A lot like Rondo. I think they are competitive guys, they are tough-minded guys. I think it’s a positive to see him continuing to play as well as he is, the more comfortable he gets. But he’s been great the last five games." ... Jared Sullinger's take on Atlanta without Horford: "I think it's going to affect them big time. That was an 18 and 9 guy, so now they're making it up collectively between Mike Scott, Paul Millsap and Elton Brand, and they’re playing really well. And Teague is playing out of his mind right now for the past couple of games. We've just got to break their rhythm."

(Read full game preview)

Freeze Frame: Restoring balance

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
8:05
AM ET
Headlines after the Boston Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night:

Green, C's get scrappy in win

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
12:12
AM ET
Broadcast ScreenshotJeff Green is helped up after helping Boston maintain possession late in the game.
The play blends harmlessly into the box score with a mere notation of "Celtics Rebound." It deserves much better.

With Boston clinging to a three-point lead with little more than a minute to play, Jared Sullinger misfired on a 3-pointer that could have iced the game. Instead, the ball popped up off the rim for what should have been an easy rebound for Atlanta's Paul Millsap (who had position on Brandon Bass).

But Millsap's teammate DeMarre Carroll failed to put a body on Jeff Green and Boston's swingman swooped in from the 3-point line to contest the rebound. Green knocked the ball out of Millsap's hand and towards the Atlanta bench, leaving the two stumbling and bumping into each other on the baseline while trying to corral the loose ball. Both Millsap and Green went to the floor, crashing hard to the ground as the ball ticked off Millsap and -- confirmed by the referees' video review -- remained Boston's ball.

That sequence defined the fourth quarter, one in which the Celtics rallied from a 12-point deficit to post a 94-87 triumph and snap a six-game losing streak.

Green gets a lot of grief for being passive and often looking like he's waiting for the game to come to him. On Saturday night, he made something happen with a little bit of hustle. If Millsap gets the rebound cleanly, the Hawks have a chance to tie the game. Instead, Jordan Crawford made a runner to put Boston up five with 58 seconds to go.

Green had another quiet fourth quarter against the Hawks, going scoreless over 7:33 (missing two shots and committing a turnover). But Green was plus-13 in plus/minus for the frame and aided the rally effort, particularly on the defensive end where the Hawks missed 10 consecutive shots as part of a five-minute scoring drought.

It's the little things that decide these types of games and Green's effort on that team rebound deserves more recognition than the box score provides.

Plenty of pluses for Crawford

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
11:35
PM ET
Was Saturday's effort the best game of Jordan Crawford's career?

D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/GettyJordan Crawford has given Boston's sluggish offense a boost this season.
If you judge solely by plus/minus, you can actually make that case. According to Basketball Reference's plus/minus data, Crawford matched a career high by finishing plus-24 while helping the Boston Celtics rally past the Atlanta Hawks 94-87 on Saturday night at Philips Arena.

The Basketball Reference data also suggests that Crawford has finished in the positive in little more than 30 percent of his career games. So just being on that side of the ledger is noteworthy. But Crawford didn't just chip in 12 points, 10 assists and three rebounds on Saturday. He made two key buckets in the final two minutes to help Boston snap a six-game losing streak.

That plus-24 matches Crawford's career best effort, from Valentine's Day 2012, when he scored 21 points off the bench in a 124-109 win in Portland. Crawford scored a team-high 24 points in a loss to Indiana on Friday night but lamented the team's inability to finish out the game as the Pacers motored away in the second half.

On Saturday, Crawford struggled with his shot early on, but the Celtics put the ball in his hands during crunch time and he rewarded their faith. After rallying from a 12-point deficit, Boston was up one with two minutes to go when Crawford came off a high pick-and-roll and blew past Al Horford to get into the lane. Two Hawks stepped up to defend, but Crawford gently floated in a layup for an 88-85 lead.

With a minute to go and Boston still up three, Crawford took the shot clock down before attacking the basket. He got a step on Jeff Teague and attacked Horford in the paint, finding a sliver of space to deliver a little 13-foot runner for a five-point cushion.

"He really wanted the ball in those moments, and I thought it was the best thing to get it to him," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "After he made the first couple of moves, the guys came back to the huddle and said, 'Put it in his hands.’ Maybe it will be somebody else some other night, but tonight it was him."

So what do we make of Crawford's recent play? After joining the starting lineup early in the season, Boston reeled off four straight wins with his help. As the team endured a six-game losing streak, it appeared Crawford was coming back to earth a bit with his turnovers on the rise. He still gave the ball away four times on Saturday, but the Celtics were able to overcome it because of their team defense in the fourth quarter and Crawford's offensive exploits.

Through 15 games, Boston's offensive rating is 10 points better with Crawford on the floor (99.9) than off (89.9). Not surprisingly, the team's defensive rating is 2 points worse than the season average with Crawford on the court, but the offensive burst negates that, considering Boston's offensive struggles this season. The Celtics rebound better with Crawford on the court and they turn the ball over fewer times as a team. Boston's pace perks up and its shooting percentages climb both overall and especially beyond the 3-point arc. Crawford is minus-24 overall in 412 minutes of court time, but the Celtics are minus-58 in the 308 minutes he's off the floor.

All of which suggests the team needs Crawford and his ability to make plays. Crawford handed out 10 assists Saturday, which included a pair of beautiful first-half alley-oop feeds to Brandon Bass and Jeff Green. He's not perfect and he's not a pure point guard, but the good tends to outweigh the bad with Crawford.

The only real downside is his struggles to prevent dribble penetration. Opponents have a habit of getting past Crawford and into the paint, which causes cracks in Boston's help defense. But Crawford uses his long arms and herky-jerky style to fluster opponents at times. His individual defensive numbers are surprisingly decent (he allows 0.761 points per play, ranking in the 75th percentile, according to Synergy Sports), but that data often ignores the times when teammates are forced into help situations to cover for him.

Saturday wasn't Crawford's best career outing, but the results are hard to argue against. Crawford continues to be a key element for Boston early in the season as the team waits for Rajon Rondo to navigate the final stages of ACL rehab. Crawford's role could get murkier from there, but for now he's averaging 12.1 points, 4.4 assists and 2.9 rebounds over 26.9 minutes per game.

Reflecting on Saturday's win, Crawford told reporters, "It feels good to win because it didn’t seem like we were supposed to win."

Few expected Crawford to be a key part of any success Boston tasted this season, but he's been an integral part in all five victories. Maybe that's why his effort Saturday seemed so good.

Rapid Reaction: Celtics 94, Hawks 87

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
10:05
PM ET


Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks 94-87 on Saturday night at Philips Arena:

THE NITTY GRITTY
Despite turning the ball over 19 times (leading to 29 points for Atlanta), the Celtics overcame a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit to clip the Hawks and end a six-game losing streak. Jordan Crawford finished with 12 points, 10 assists and three rebounds. He was a team-best plus-24 in plus/minus and hit a pair of big shots down the stretch to help Boston emerge. Brandon Bass, back in a starter's role after Kelly Olynyk sprained his ankle, led six Boston players in double figures with 17 points to go along with seven rebounds and two blocks. Jared Sullinger (15 points, nine rebounds) and Jeff Green (16 points, five rebounds) had solid nights as well. Al Horford scored a game-high 18 points to pace Atlanta.

TURNING POINT
The Celtics were down 12 after a Shelvin Mack jumper with 11:14 to play in the fourth quarter. But the Hawks went on a five-minute scoreless streak -- missing 10 shots during that stretch -- and Boston whittled its deficit down to one. A pair of Bass free throws with 3:31 to play pushed the Celtics ahead, and Crawford made a pair of driving baskets in the final two minutes as the Celtics surged to the finish line.

SULLINGER TAGGED WITH FLAGRANT-1
Sullinger got whistled for a flagrant-1 penalty after a hard, two-handed foul on DeMarre Carroll midway through the third quarter. With Carroll on the break, Sullinger struck down on Carroll's head/shoulders, knocking him to the floor. A flagrant-1 foul is defined as unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent. The opposing team is awarded two free throws and possession (Atlanta used that to open a three-point lead in a game that had been tied at 59). Sullinger's flagrant was the team's first of the season. The league reviews all flagrant calls and can reclassify the foul. It can also elect to fine or suspend the player for his actions.

LOB CITY?
The Celtics had been credited with only one alley-oop dunk this season, but had two in this game. Crawford zipped a beautiful pass high above the 3-point arc near the Celtics bench that Brandon Bass threw down in the first quarter. Later in the first half, Green completed a lob from Crawford. OK, so nobody will mistake this for Lob City, but the Celtics showed they can play above the rim (occasionally).

LOOSE BALLS
The Hawks took 21 more shots than Boston but shot just 38.7 percent overall. Boston connected on 45.8 percent of its shots. ... The Celtics lived at the free throw line, making 24 of 31 attempts (the Hawks shot just 12 freebies). ... Boston finished with a 47-38 advantage on the glass. ... Neither Olynyk nor Keith Bogans (illness) made the trip to Atlanta. ... MarShon Brooks logged a healthy DNP.

WHAT IT MEANS
Threatening to taste its first seven-game losing streak since April 2007, Boston (5-10) got its first win since Nov. 11. The Celtics get a day off Sunday as they come off their fifth back-to-back of the season but are off to Charlotte, where they'll complete a stretch of five games in five cities over seven nights (the second such stretch of an insanely game-heavy November). With the possibility that the Celtics will own Atlanta's 2014 first-round draft pick (if the Hawks execute a swap with the Brooklyn Nets), Boston aided its chances at a better pick with Saturday's win.

Pregame: Bass replaces injured Olynyk

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
7:20
PM ET
With Kelly Olynyk out with a sprained right ankle, the Boston Celtics will reinsert Brandon Bass into the starting lineup for Saturday's visit to the Atlanta Hawks.

Bass started the first 12 games of the season before coach Brad Stevens shuffled the Olynyk/Jared Sullinger combo onto the first unit earlier this week. Bass will start up front with Sullinger, while Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford and Jeff Green round out the starting 5.

Bass is averaging 10.6 points and 4.7 rebounds over 27.9 minutes per game. During his time in Boston, he has posted far better numbers as a starter while struggling in reserve roles.

Stevens suggested to reporters in Atlanta before Saturday's game that Olynyk could miss a couple weeks due to the sprained ankle, which could keep Bass back with the starting group for a bit.

W2W4: C's vs. Hawks (Game 15 of 82)

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
10:30
AM ET
The Boston Celtics (4-10, 2-6 away) visit the Atlanta Hawks (8-5, 4-1 home) on Saturday night at Philips Arena (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

  • AN UNRELENTING SCHEDULE: The Celtics will play their 15th game in 24 days on Saturday. This is Boston's fifth back-to-back of the season and the team is 0-4 on the second nights thus far. Saturday's visit to Atlanta comes amid a stretch of five games in five cities over seven days (the second time this year the team has had such a stretch). How does Stevens feel about the craziness? "I think the thing you don’t like about it is we just haven’t had time to practice," said Stevens. "Even after a back-to-back, you get in at 4:30 in the morning and you’re not practicing [the next day]. We really have had limited practice time and that’s why December will be a welcome [break] regardless of how we’re playing because you get a little bit more chance to get on the practice court together and try to get better."

  • A CHANCE TO HELP THEIR FUTURE: Keep in mind that Atlanta's 2014 draft pick is likely ticketed for Boston. The Celtics own the Nets' pick via the summer blockbuster, but the Hawks have the right to swap spots with Brooklyn via the Joe Johnson trade. Plenty can change before the end of the season, but given the Nets' slow start, Boston has to hope Atlanta endures some struggles as well to better that pick. The Celtics can help their own cause in the first of four head-to-head meetings this season.

  • HAWKS QUIETLY SOARING: The Hawks will look a little different without Josh Smith (Paul Millsap joined their frontcourt this offseason) and with a coaching change (Mike Budenholzer replaced Larry Drew). But Atlanta is actually playing some of the best ball in the East with an 8-5 record (sitting third behind Indy and Miami). The Hawks rank 11th in offensive rating (103.4 points per 100 possessions) and 10th in defensive rating (100.8). They share the ball well (second best in assist ratio), protect the defensive glass (fourth in defensive rebound percentage), and take decent care of the ball (11th in turnover percentage). That's giving them a chance to win games and they've won two in a row (both over old friend Smith and the Pistons).

  • WHAT ELSE? If Stevens watches film of last year's meetings he'll know to keep a body attached to Kyle Korver, who shredded Boston from 3-point range. As usual, Korver is near the tops of the league in points per possession (1.242), according to Synergy Sports data. and he's shooting a scorching 52.9 percent beyond the arc (36-of-68 overall). ... Keep an eye on the turnover total. As we noted today, the magic number is 14 for Boston. Anything north of that has assured a loss so far this season. ... Watch Boston's shooters coming off pick-and-rolls. The Celtics have found success having Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford fire away dribbling off screens, but the Hawks are the second-best team in the league defending pick-and-roll ball-handlers.

(Read full game preview)

Randolph on the rebound with C's

March, 30, 2013
3/30/13
12:01
AM ET


BOSTON -- Few would have blamed Shavlik Randolph if he was the last one out of the Celtics' locker room on Friday night. After flirting with his first career double-double -- posting nine points and a career-high 13 rebounds over 22 minutes during a 118-107 triumph over the Atlanta Hawks -- Randolph could have basked in the glow of maybe his finest NBA performance with breathless reporters ready to document his high-energy outing.

Instead he was the first one gone.

Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesShavlik Randolph goes up for a dunk Friday night against the Hawks.
You see, the Duke game was on. And Celtics coach Doc Rivers and captain Paul Pierce had the media's attention, so the 29-year-old Randolph slipped out of the locker room practically unfettered, even if he didn't quite make it out of the arena without a couple questions from reporters left a slightly different sort of breathless after chasing him to the elevators.

So what did Friday's performance mean to a player who had been out of NBA employment for three seasons before the Celtics swooped him up from the Chinese Basketball Association?

"It meant one more win for us," said a selfless Randolph. "It wouldn't have meant anything if we had lost. The most important stat for me is not rebounding -- it is, what is my plus-minus? When I go in the game, is our team plus or minus, as far as overall points, and I can care less if I have a rebound, a point. Obviously, those are things I'm going to need to do to add value to the team and help the team do that, but the Celtics brought me here to come in and give their rotation guys some rest and be able to come in and buy minutes. When I'm out there, hopefully the team can still play well and have a big man out there."

For the record, Randolph was plus-12 for the night, second only to Pierce's plus-28. Over the last four games that Kevin Garnett has been sidelined with ankle inflammation, Randolph is plus-19 when he's on the floor (and Boston is minus-26 when he's not). It's safe to say he's accomplishing his primary goal.

(Read full post)

Rehabbing Rondo visits C's

March, 29, 2013
3/29/13
11:35
PM ET
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo -- lost for the season after undergoing surgery to repair an ACL tear in his right knee -- was back in Boston on Friday and got as close to the action as he possibly could, sitting on the Celtics' bench between the coaching staff and his teammates for the entirety of Boston's 118-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesRajon Rondo on the sideline for the Celtics on Friday night.
Rondo suffered the injury in a Jan. 25 overtime loss to the same Hawks team and underwent surgery midway through February. Rondo sought to evade reporters as he exited the team's locker room after the game and, when asked by ESPN Boston for a status update, he offered a brief: "I'm good."

Pressed on whether he'd be available for the start of training camp for the 2013-2014 season, Rondo said: "I don't have any set date [for a return]. I'm taking it one day at a time."

He might not be able to make an impact on the court at this juncture, but Rondo's presence alone was enough to make something of a difference on Boston's sideline on Friday night.

"It was nice [having Rondo on the bench]," coach Doc Rivers said. "He told us today he was coming in, and it was good to have him back around. He's moving OK. You know, it's funny, I'm looking at it knowing he's nowhere near [playing again], but that's the first thing you look at. Having gone through that experience, we sat and talked about a lot of the stuff you have to go through. So it brought back these horrendous memories, actually. But he's -- from his doctors -- they say he's doing tremendous."

Added Paul Pierce: "It's good to get [Rondo] around the guys, to see some of his new teammates. Who knows, a lot of these guys might be here for him next year. It's good for him to get acquainted with them. He's done his surgery, he seems to be in good spirits, so it's good to see him."

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Celtics 118, Hawks 107

March, 29, 2013
3/29/13
9:53
PM ET
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsCeltics captain Paul Pierce handles the ball against the Hawks on Friday night.
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 118-107, on Friday night at TD Garden:

THE NITTY GRITTY
Jeff Green followed up his buzzer-beater heroics in Cleveland by scoring a team-high 27 points, Jason Terry erupted for 24 points while connecting on five 3-pointers, and Paul Pierce posted his third triple-double of the season (and 10th of his career) with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to lead one of Boston's best offensive outings of the season. Oh, and Shavlik Randolph came off the bench to post nine points and a career-high 13 rebounds over 22 minutes. The Al Horford-less Hawks got a team-high 19 points from reserve Mike Scott, while Josh Smith added 18 points but labored through 7-of-23 shooting.

TURNING POINT
Despite the sustained offensive attack, the Celtics were only up six after a Kyle Korver layup with 7:33 to play. A little 7-0 run gave Boston, which had led by as much as 15, some much-needed breathing room. Brandon Bass hit a jumper, Avery Bradley's steal led to a Terry triple, and a Green jumper had the Celtics out front, 107-94, with 5:08 to play.

SHAV FREED
Randolph's recent play screamed for more floor time and, rewarded with extended action, he shined around the basket. Seven of Randolph's game-high 13 boards were on the offensive end, and he was plus-12 on the night. He finished with 4-of-6 shooting, but a missed freebie cost him his first career double-double.

FIRST-HALF OUTBURST
The Celtics erupted for 66 points in the first half, shooting 56.8 percent from the floor and knocking down eight triples (half of those coming from Terry, who had a team-high 16 points before the intermission). It was the Celtics' biggest first-half output of the season (they had scored 59 points in the first half twice this season) and the largest output of any half (topping the 63 points posted in the second half against Toronto on March 13).

LEE RETURNS TO ACTION
After missing three games due to a sprained left ankle, Courtney Lee returned in a reserve role against the Hawks. He subbed in for Pierce with 2:46 to play in the first quarter and quickly registered a block. Lee played just six minutes, chipping in two points, a rebound and a block.

WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics have won two in a row to pull within a game-and-a-half of the Hawks in the race for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. A ton of positives to pluck from this game for Boston, though second-chance opportunities allowed the Hawks to hang around. The Celtics now head out on a brief two-game road trip, a back-to-back with visits to the Knicks (Sunday) and Timberwolves (Monday).

Snapshot: Rondo visits Garden

March, 29, 2013
3/29/13
9:29
PM ET
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who recently returned to the area after spending the first few weeks of his rehab from ACL surgery in Florida, visited the Garden on Friday night and sat on the bench with his teammates for the first time since the injury:

Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesRajon Rondo sits on the bench alongside Jason Terry during Friday's game.

Pregame: Lee returns in reserve role

March, 29, 2013
3/29/13
7:35
PM ET


BOSTON -- Boston Celtics guard Courtney Lee will return to action Friday night against the Atlanta Hawks after missing three games due to a sprained left ankle, but he'll do so in a reserve role.

"I’m not going to start him, but I’m going to play him," Rivers said. "I’m just going to see the minutes and see how he feels."

Added Rivers: "He looked OK today in shootaround, but he didn’t have a practice to fall back on, so who knows and we’ll just see."

The Celtics will go with the same starting lineup from Wednesday's win in Cleveland with Chris Wilcox alongside Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass.

Lee at shootaroud; game-time decision

March, 29, 2013
3/29/13
11:36
AM ET
Celtics guard Courtney Lee participated in Boston's morning shootaround on Friday and is a game-time decision to play this evening against the Hawks, according to the team.

Lee sprained his left ankle last Friday night in Dallas and has been sidelined since, missing the team's last three games. If healthy enough to return, he could add some stability to a starting lineup that's been in flux with both Lee and Kevin Garnett sidelined by ankle injuries.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jared Sullinger
PTS AST STL MIN
14.0 2.2 0.7 28.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsE. Turner 4.4
StealsM. Smart 1.1
BlocksJ. Sullinger 0.7