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The Boston Celtics clinched their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks Thursday, winning a thriller Game 6 at TD Garden, 83-80. Kevin Garnett led the way for Boston, scoring 28 points and adding 14 rebounds.
The Hawks finished the first quarter up 23-20 after a buzzer-beating jumper from Kirk Hinrich. Atlanta shot 50 percent from the field in the first while holding the Celtics to just 7-for-20 shooting.
The Celtics were able to stay close by forcing four Atlanta turnovers in the first 12 minutes.
Atlanta pushed the lead to eight after Williams’ third three-pointer of the game early in the second quarter, but Boston stormed back behind tough defense and Garnett.
After going just 1-for-5 in the first quarter, Garnett went 3-for-3 for eight points during a 21-3 run to give the Celtics a 41-31 lead. He also had a steal and a block during the stretch.
The Celtics out-rebounded Atlanta 11-6 in the second quarter. The Boston defense held the Hawks to 8-for-21 shooting while forcing six Atlanta turnovers.
Boston outscored the Hawks 27-18 in the quarter, giving them a 47-41 advantage at halftime. Garnett led the Celtics with 13 points in the first half, while Josh Smith lead the Hawks with 12.
Early in the third quarter, the Hawks forced a Boston timeout after nailing back-to-back threes to cut the Celtic lead to just two. Neither team shot well for the quarter, both going 7-for-18 from the field.
Joe Johnson scored a nice 10 points in the third, hitting on 2-of-3 three-pointers. But Boston seemed to answer with buckets at key moments, and the Celtics went into the final quarter with a 67-63 lead after a Rajon Rondo buzzer-beater.
The Celtics increased their lead to nine after a 7-2 run to open the fourth quarter. Atlanta then cut the lead to one with just under four minutes to play after a 10-2 run sparked by Al Horford’s six points.
Smith gave the Hawks their first lead of the second half with a dunk to put Atlanta ahead 77-76. Horford then continued his hot quarter with another bucket to increase the Hawk lead to three.
After Pierce cut the deficit to one, Boston stopped Atlanta’s three-point attempt. But Rondo was called for traveling on the Celtics’ next possession.
After another defensive stop, Ryan Hollins was fouled after he grabbed a big offensive rebound off a Garnett miss. The Celtics then put it in the hands of Garnett, who hit a jumper with 30 seconds to go to give Boston a one-point lead.
The Celtics then grabbed the rebound from Smith’s fade-away jumper. Ray Allen hit one of two free throws after being fouled. The final chance for Atlanta came after Pierce blocked a potential game-tying layup from Williams.
With three seconds left, Horford was fouled after receiving the inbounds pass. He missed the first of his free throws before hitting the second. Pierce then hit two free throws to seal the game for the Celtics.
Smith led Atlanta with 18 points, while Horford, Johnson, and Williams each scored at least 15.
Boston will now face the Atlantic Division-rival Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Philadelphia became the fifth-ever No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 after beating the Chicago Bulls in six games.
Game 1 of the series is scheduled for Saturday.