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The Hawks had their backs against the wall. Down 2-0, Mike Bibby said this was a must-win for the Hawks. Every player says that when down a couple games into a series; it’s really cliche. Most people didn’t think the Hawks ever had a chance of getting within ten points of the Celtics by the end of any of the games. Well, in a complete turn-around, the Hawks came out swinging and delivered a surprising knockout blow in the third quarter in beating the Celtics 102-93. The Celtics still lead the series 2-1.
Josh Smith had an unbelievable game in leading the Hawks with a team-high 27 points on 11-17 shooting, to go with nine rebounds. He shot a surprising 3-6 from long distance, which usually isn’t a strong part of his game. His true strength is his above-the-rim style…and don’t worry, that was still there with his five dunks and one blocked shot.
Mike Bibby came back to have a decent game after getting totally outplayed by Rajon Rondo in the first two games of the series, fininshing with 12 points and eight assists. He still only shot 4-12, but his assist totals were up and he really complemented top scorers Smith and Joe Johnson (23 points) very well.
Former Florida star Al Horford had a strong game at center, finishing with 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead a balanced Hawks attack. All five starters played at least 24 minutes and scored in double figures.
On the Celtics end, they looked surprisingly flat coming out of the half. They usually turn it up a notch in the third quarter, but that was not the story on this day (they were outscored 28-18 in the quarter) as they seemed to get frustrated any time the Hawks made a big shot. They were playing like a young inexperienced team, while the Hawks were playing like a bunch of veterans. The C’s were just uncharacteristically undisciplined.
I said before that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hawks would steal Game 3 at home, but I expect the Celtics to still take the series in five games, winning on Monday and Wednesday to close it out. Look at the bright side: at least the Hawks made it a compelling series, and at least the Celtics get to (hopefully) close out the series at home.