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In yet another second game of a back-to-back on the road, the Celtics and their aging bodies and tired legs took their talents to Atlanta to take on the younger Hawks (who had Thursday off, while the Celtics beat the Spurs in San Antonio). The C’s had recently welcomed back Jermaine O’Neal, but were still without Nenad Krstic, Troy Murphy, and Shaq, and as a result were undersized yet again.
“Back to backs are always tough on older teams. Challenge becomes greater when you through in season’s worth of injuries,” tweeted CSNNE.com’s A. Sherrod Blakely.
Al Horford played nearly every minute, and ate up the Celtics inside to the tune of 16 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Hawks to a comeback win, 88-83. Atlanta has now won three straight games after losing 14 of 21 overall, while the Celtics are now just 6-8 in their last 14 games.
Horford and usual pest Zaza Pachulia had their way with Celtics’ remaining big men Glen Davis, Jermaine O’Neal, and Kevin Garnett. Pachulia, who usually picks a fight every time he’s facing the Green, finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench (including 10 pts and 6 boards in the 4th quarter). Oh, and he also was at the center of a few scuffles near midcourt.
“I thought Zaza was the toughest dude on the floor and changed the whole game,” Rivers said. “He was banging everybody, getting offensive rebounds, and I thought that was a great move by them.”
With just seven games to go before the playoffs begin, the Celtics may be in trouble. They need at least Shaq and Krstic to return healthy, even though that may be possible. Glen Davis is not a center — he’s an undersized power forward — and Jermaine is not fit enough to play 30+ minutes.
One reason Kendrick Perkins was traded was because the Celtics had so many bigs in reserve…but if none of them return, they will desperately in need of a guy like Perk in the playoffs.
The C’s outshot the Hawks (45% – 37%), made more field goals (33-29), and hit more threes (6-4). So, how did they lose? They were absolutely murdered on the glass (evident of the big men woes previously discussed), as the Hawks out-rebounded the C’s 52-38, including an inexcusable 14 offensive rebounds for Atlanta.
The AP gives us more telling statistics: “The Hawks held a 17-8 rebounding advantage in the fourth quarter and a 52-38 edge for the game. Atlanta also outscored Boston 18-2 in second-chance points.” Yikes!
The Hawks also did their job at the line, combining to go 26-30 from the charity stripe, or 87% from the line. The Celtics were not nearly as effective, going just 11-20 (55%). Paul Pierce (25 points, 8 rebounds) hit 8 of his 11 free throws, but the rest of the team combined to go 3-for-8.
The Celtics have just six games to go until the playoffs, and still have one more back-to-back on the road to deal with (4/10 @ Heat and 4/11 @ Wizards). Next up, though, for the C’s is a game at home against the Pistons on Sunday.