Some games produce a box score worth sticking on the fridge, others are better fit for kindling. Monday night's scrap between the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks was very much the latter. Folks in Atlanta (a near-even mix of Hawks and Celtics fans, it seemed) were treated to a "defensive battle"-- grinding, physical play peppered with missed shots and turnovers that resulted in a 79-76 Celtics win by virtue of a big fourth quarter run and an Atlanta comeback survived.
Both teams slogged through three quarters of horrid shooting, neither cracking 20 points in any of those first three frames. While errant shots chipped away at both rims, the highlights came mainly from extra roughness between the two teams: Brandon Bass's flagrant foul on Zaza Pachulia, Greg Stiemsma's hit on Pachulia just moments later, and some words exchanged between Kevin Garnett and Josh Smith. The collision between Stiemsma's elbow and Pachulia necessitated stitches, and happened to coincide with an apparent turning point in the game. With the Hawks up 45-39 in the middle of third (yes, that was the score in the middle of the third), Jeff Teague skittered up court, tore diagonally into the lane and put one down on top of Ray Allen.
Teague, as you can see, also took the opportunity to roar in Allen's face, and may have spurred a Celtic run in the process. Peachtree Hoops noticed a sudden twist after that play:
The game changed after Teague dunked the ball, giving the Hawks their biggest lead, 47-39, and then he decided to scream at, garnering a technical foul. Concurrently, discovered he was bleeding from his head, courtesy of a flagrant foul on a previous possession, and he had to leave the way, opening the door to Collins to come in. The Hawks were stuck on that 47 for almost four game minutes and only four more points in the last 6:16 in the quarter. Definite buzzkill.
A buzzkill, indeed. The Hawks had Boston in foul trouble and on the ropes, but surrendered an 11-4 run to end the period and allowed the Celtics right back into the game.
Boston's momentum carried into the fourth, when Ray Allen caught fire to put Boston ahead by double digits. Amazingly, Atlanta stormed right back into contention in the final minutes of the game. They rode a sudden scoring outburst from Joe Johnson (who finished with 25) to 13 points in just over two minutes, pulling almost even. Allen nailed two free throws to put Boston up three, then Teague's pull-up jumper with four seconds left (perhaps a bit early) sailed far wide of the basket to spare everyone five more minutes.
Boston moved to 24-21 with the win while Atlanta dropped to 26-20 with the loss.