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Al Horford recorded 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, helping the previously lifeless Atlanta Hawks survive the Boston Celtics Tuesday night, 87-86, to force a Game 6.
Rajon Rondo stole a Josh Smith inbounds pass with 10 seconds left in the game, giving the Celtics a chance to win the game. Horford and Smith forced Rondo along the baseline, and Rondo lost the ball as time expired. Rondo led the Celtics with 13 points, 12 rebounds and five steals.
Paul Pierce hit a three to bring the Celtics within one with 50 seconds left, but he airballed the go-ahead basket on the Celtics’ next possession.
Pierce was questionable going into Tuesday’s contest with a sore left knee, and his injury appeared to hurt his performance. Pierce shot 7-for-17 for the game and missed a key open layup late in the fourth when he attempted to jump off his left leg. Pierce finished with 16 points and six rebounds.
Ryan Hollins also had a strong outing off the Celtics’ pine. Hollins and Rondo hooked up for two thunderous, momentum shifting alley-oops in the second half after the Celtics had fallen down 12 points in the third quarter. Hollins has seemingly moved ahead of Greg Stiemsma in Doc Rivers’ rotation.
All five Hawks starters scored in double figures, getting the most notable performance – outside of Horford’s – from Smith, who finished with 13 points, 16 rebounds and six assists. Jeff Teague aided the effort with 16 points and five assists.
The series now shifts back to Boston for a pivotal Game 6 on Thursday night. The Celtics lead the series 3-2.