Banks scores career-high 28

BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Celtics' best offensive performance of
the season was one of the worst ways to prepare for the playoffs.

The Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks 137-132 Wednesday behind
Marcus Banks' career-high 28 points, but know that defense wins
playoff games.

"If you allow a team to be able to shoot and score like that,
you're not coming back in the second half," Boston coach John
Carroll said. "You're going to get on a bus and go home."

The Celtics trailed 71-67 at halftime but went ahead to stay
with 8:08 left in the third quarter, 82-79, on Walter McCarty's

The 269 points tied the season-high in the NBA, set by Memphis
and Atlanta in an overtime game March 29. The previous high for a
regulation game was 262 by Washington and Atlanta on March 12.

The Celtics made the playoffs despite losing five of their last
six games, posting a 36-46 record and clinching the eighth seed in
the Eastern Conference when Philadelphia lost Sunday night.

Their first-round series starts Saturday at top-seeded Indiana,
which went 61-21.

"Hopefully, this is a confidence builder for our team," Banks
said. "We've been struggling a little bit on the offensive and
defensive ends, but I think we can get it together with a couple of
hard practices."

The Hawks missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season but
won six of their last 11 games to finish at 28-54.

"We have been through a lot of ups and downs," Stephen Jackson
said. "There were a lot of trades, but everyone stayed
professional and everyone played hard."

The Hawks were led by Jackson and Chris Crawford with 24 points
each and Jason Terry with 20.

Mark Blount scored 27 points and Ricky Davis had 24 for Boston,
which played without Paul Pierce. He missed his second straight
game with a sprained ankle but said he'll be ready for the

Boston's previous high point total this season was 126 points at
Seattle on Dec. 10. But the Hawks' total was a season-high against
the Celtics, who gave up 127 at Sacramento on Dec. 17.

"We can't come out like we did tonight defensively" in the
playoffs, Jiri Welsch said. "Defensively, it was good enough to
win today but not against Indiana."

Atlanta just missed its season highs of 138 points scored and
136 points allowed.

"It wasn't necessarily a defensive struggle," Atlanta coach
Terry Stotts said with a smile. "It was kind of like an old school

Atlanta's Bobby Sura had a disappointing finish, scoring 14
points in the first half but missing the rest of the game with a
strained left hamstring.

On Monday night, Sura deliberately missed a shot and got the
rebound, initially giving him his third straight triple-double. But
the NBA disallowed the rebound, leaving Sura with 22 points, 11
assists and nine rebounds in a 129-107 win over New Jersey.

Terry's 3-pointer cut Boston's lead to 115-113 with 7:24 left in
the game, but the Celtics scored the next eight points on two free
throws by Banks and two 3-pointers by Davis, making it 123-113 with
6:10 remaining.

It was 135-124 before Atlanta cut the margin to 135-130 with 15
seconds left after 3-pointers by Terry and Jackson. Banks hit two
free throws with 14 seconds to go before Crawford ended the scoring
with a dunk.

"Our goal was to score 130 and get out and run," Atlanta's
Travis Hansen said. "It was a fun game."
^Notes:@ Before the game, the Celtics signed center Ernest Brown and
placed center Kendrick Perkins on the injured list. Neither is
expected to be on the playoff roster. ... The Celtics also signed
guard Dana Barros, a 13-year NBA veteran who had been serving as
their assistant coach and is expected to be on the playoff roster.
He scored seven points. ... Crawford averaged 18.8 points in his
last 26 games.


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