Boston Celtics: Game 36
After Monday's 102-96 victory at the TD Garden, he doesn't have to. Having now rallied from halftime deficits three times against the Celtics this season, including twice on Boston's home turf, the Hawks have established themselves as legitimate postseason contenders simply with their play against a foe regarded by some as the class of the Eastern Conference.
Sure, the Celtics were playing without Kevin Garnett when the Hawks defeated them twice in the past four days. Yes, Atlanta has just as recently wilted against top competition (see Saturday's 32-point drubbing in Orlando).
But as Boston discovered two seasons ago during its own title run, no one wants to see the Hawks in the postseason. And isn't that the true sign of an elite squad?
Read more in today's DAILY DIME.
BOSTON -- With Rasheed Wallace and Kendrick Perkins jockeying for the top spot on the NBA's technical foul leaderboard, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers last month texted both players his motto for the 2009-10 season: "He who angers you, owns you."
In the aftermath of Monday's 102-96 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Rivers wished he had considered his own message after a personal meltdown helped the visitors rally from a double-digit deficit at TD Garden.
The Hawks have won all three meetings this season (the teams play one more time in Atlanta later this month), rallying from halftime deficits in each win.
Rivers lost his cool when Glen Davis got called for a flagrant foul for a hard takedown of Marvin Williams midway through the third quarter.
Rivers expressed his displeasure in no uncertain terms to referee Bennett Salvatore, who promptly hit the Boston coach with a double technical and ejected him from the game. Before Rivers could be herded down the tunnel to the locker room, assistant coach Armond Hill drew yet another technical.
The volatile series left Atlanta with five free throws -- it made four -- and possession of the ball, helping the Hawks trim Boston's 10-point lead to a 67-61 advantage with 6:16 to play in the third.
Atlanta tied the game before the end of the quarter, then pulled ahead in the fourth, making Rivers' tantrum sting that much more.
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Wallace likely out a week
Celtics coach Doc Rivers indicated following Monday's game that forward Rasheed Wallace is day-to-day with a left foot injury, but is likely to miss at least a week of action.
Wallace, who injured the front part of his foot during Sunday's win over Toronto, underwent X-rays after telling Rivers he couldn't play Monday and, while the tests were negative, the training staff suggested some time off.
“Looks like a week, maybe," said Rivers. "It’s day-to-day, but I would say maybe a week. Maybe less. It’s going to be day-to-day. I think it’s [his] toe... I’m not sure what it is. I don’t know exactly. I know it started hurting him [Sunday] night after the game. In the locker room he was saying his foot was bothering him and then this morning it got bigger I guess. But when he came to the game, he thought he was going to play. He actually went out and and tried to warm up, and he came in and said, 'Hey Coach, I can’t go.' And we did X-rays and all that, and they were negative, but they also showed that he probably needs a break."
Wallace, already filling in for Kevin Garnett, who has missed six straight games and is expected to be sidelined for at least 10 more days with a hyperextended right knee, is the latest addition to the Celtics' injury report.
Starters to finish
After Rivers was ejected in the third quarter, the Celtics didn't utilize a single sub over the final 19 minutes of the game, even as the Hawks rallied ahead.
"I think with me getting thrown out, it kind of left our staff -- it happened so quick," said Rivers. "It's almost like Rasheed. So leaving the guys in that were playing well was probably the safe bet. I don't know."
Even with the Celtics playing the second night of a back-to-back after Sunday's win in Toronto, and doing so shorthanded due to the last-minute scratch of Wallace, Pierce refused to blame the loss on being tired.
But the stats speak for themselves. Every starter except Brian Scalabrine, Wallace's replacement, played 42 minutes or more, including the final 19 with Glen Davis, who is also working himself back into game shape.
"I think it just comes to wanting to be out there and having the will to win," said Pierce. "I know both teams were tired."
No answer for Johnson, Crawford
Former Celtics first-round draft pick Joe Johnson produced his finest game against his former team, dropping a game-high 36 points on 14-of-25 shooting. Jamal Crawford, who scored 18 points in each of the Hawks' first two victories over Boston this season, scored Atlanta's final six points while finishing with 17 on the night.
"They have pretty good scorers in [Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson] and we have to do a better job of putting pressure on them in terms of trapping them and getting the ball out of their hands," said Paul Pierce. "You allow a guy to go 1-on-1 with no help and it’s tough to guard pretty much any good scorer in the league as you see when Joe Johnson’s probing with the ball -- going left, going right and there’s no help defense. The same with Jamal Crawford, it’s tough for anybody. So we need to do a better job of putting pressure on them, getting the ball out of their hands, and we didn’t do that late.”
Said Hawks coach Mike Woodson: "We called [Crawford's] number. If he didn’t have it, he would kick it out to Joe and let Joe play. He made the driving lay-up and the leaner in the lane, which were huge buckets.”
But Rivers turned serious about as quickly as he was tossed by referee Bennett Salvatore for arguing a flagrant foul call against Glen Davis. Boston led by double digits when Rivers got the heave and Atlanta, aided by five free throws from what amounted to three technicals and a flagrant foul, rallied for a 102-96 win at TD Garden.
"I told the guys after the game, No. 1, that's always on me," said Rivers. "I don't think I should ever get thrown out. I don't know when the last time I was thrown out was, actually ... So I don't care how bad you think the calls are at the moment, you know, somehow you have to try to rein yourself back in.
"Honestly, I reacted -- I was so shocked at what they were calling. I thought they were talking about whether it was a breakaway or not. The last thing I had in my mind was a flagrant. I didn't even think that was part of the discussion. So I was so surprised by that I reacted, and I never should have."
Rivers said he couldn't recall being that enraged before, particularly in a game.
"Maybe in a practice," he said. "But, no. Usually when I get thrown out, which is at least two years ago, usually I tell my coaches, 'Hey, I gotta go, I think our team needs a lift.' "
Celtics captain Paul Pierce said the meltdown shouldn't have had enough impact for the game to get away.
"The crowd really got into it and we knew it was going to be a tough game," said Pierce. "Regardless of the commotion, we still had the lead in our building. So there's no excuses, but I think we just failed to execute there in the fourth quarter.
"We gave them the momentum when we were up  and then we got the technical fouls. They basically cut the lead in half with free throws and it becomes a dogfight after that."
Davis said he was surprised by the call.
"I'm a big guy and it felt like I didn't intentionally do it," said Davis. "When I was coming down, I tried to hold him from falling. But the refs made a decision and I can't get mad or upset.
"The tempo switched. We let the game go that way. I just know we didn't win. We didn't finish the game like we were supposed to. We played a great first half, but we didn't play good in the second half."
As for Rivers being tossed and assistant coach Armond Hill also getting a technical in the aftermath, Davis simply said, "Emotions flare."
BOSTON -- Instant reaction after the Atlanta Hawks posted a 102-96 triumph over the Boston Celtics on Monday night at TD Garden:
How the game was won: Celtics-killers Jamal Crawford scored the final six points of the game as the Hawks rallied from a 10-point, second-half deficit for their second victory over Boston in four days. Crawford finished with 17 points, while former Celtics first-round pick Joe Johnson tossed in a game-high 36 points. Rajon Rondo paced Boston with 26 points and 7 assists.
Turning point: The Celtics boasted a double-digit lead before a meltdown on the Boston bench let Atlanta back into the game. Coach Doc Rivers was ejected after vehemently arguing a flagrant foul call against Glen Davis; assistant coach Armond Hill also got tagged with a technical. The Hawks ultimately attempted five technical free throws, making four, to slice a 10-point deficit to 67-61 with 6:16 to play in the third quarter.
Stat of the game: The Hawks shot 33 free throws (compared to Boston's 15) and the Garden faithful let the refs know what they thought of the officiating throughout the night.
Unsung hero: Atlanta center Al Horford logged 41 minutes and finished with a game-best plus-24 in the plus-minus category. A staggering stat in a six-point game.
What it means: The Hawks have won all three meetings against the Celtics this season, including two in Boston. The Celtics were in complete control until the third-quarter meltdown. Johnson -- who was traded in his rookie season for Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers -- absolutely torched his former team, while Boston has had no answer for Crawford.
A livid Rivers screamed at official Bennett Salvatore after Davis was called for a hard foul against Marvin Williams and he was quickly assessed a double technical and ejected.
Rivers, who has preached the motto, "He who angers you, owns you" this season, was as emotional as we've seen him and was incredulous after getting tossed.
As Rivers left to a standing ovation, assistant coach Armond Hill got tagged with a technical foul of his own as the Celtics' coaching staff continued to argue with the officials.
The Hawks ultimately attempted five technical free throws, making four, to slice a 10-point deficit to 67-61 with 6:16 to play in the third quarter.
For more on Kevin Garnett's recovery and Rasheed Wallace's foot injury, see previous posts.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers noted that the most challenging aspect of dealing with injuries and illness is managing minutes for the healthy players left to shoulder the load.
Rivers has been forced to play starters like Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and even Rajon Rondo on his sore hamstring, for more minutes than he'd probably like.
"I've been OK with it," said Rivers. "It just seems like, in certain games, [Pierce or Allen] has to play more minutes than we want them to play. And I'm fine with that, because you know later you can buy minutes for them down the road. I'm just happy with the way we're competing. We've had a lot of things thrown at us here in a short stretch -- injuries, illnesses, and the fact that they're coming five minutes before game time. Things like that are far more difficult for our staff and players.
"When you only have 12 players, you're not as deep as in football at times. It's just the size guys... when you lose [Glen Davis] for a stretch, Kevin [Garnett], those are the guys. Heck, even the 3-4-5, those positions really concern you at times. [Marquis Daniels'] injury has forced Paul to do what he did all of last year: guard the best guy ever single night. Those are the things you don't want to happen. But it happens and we grind through.
Marquis recovery on track
Celtics swingman Marquis Daniels, recovering from surgery to repair a torn ligmanet in his left thumb last month, engaged in strength and conditioning drills on the court before Monday's game and also dished out some one-handed passes to Shelden Williams.
Daniels remains on pace for a mid-February return, which Rivers indicated remains after the All-Star break.
"I don't think that's changed, but I haven't asked in three weeks," said Rivers. "The last time I checked, that's what they said. I think he'll be ready to play then. A lot of times they say that and they mean that's when the cast comes off. I think he'll be ready to play after the All-Star break."
Not among the elite?
Despite two wins over the Celtics this season, Hawks coach Mike Woodson hesitated to put call his team an elite squad before Monday's game. Woodson stressed his charges are still learning how to win, but that the first victory in Boston certainly gave the Hawks some confidence in themselves.
Despite being inconsistent at times, the Hawks remain just a 1.5 games back of the Orlando Magic in the Southeast Division and Woodson is pressing his troops to work towards the goal of winning a division title.
One night after his biggest offensive outburst since Jan. 31, 2004 as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, Wallace joins the Green's walking wounded.
Wallace participated in pregame warmups, but according to the Celtics' media relations staff, the front part of his foot wasn't allowing him to push off, and the training staff decided to sideline him.
Just another night where the Celtics don't have their full complement of players.
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