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The streaky Boston Celtics may be beginning to turn things around as they live on the fringe of the Eastern Conference top-eight. After pulling away from the Pacers on Friday to end a four-game losing streak, the Celtics topped the Atlanta Hawks, 89-81 on Saturday night.
The Celtics trailed 38-53 at halftime, but outscored the Hawks 33-9 in the third quarter as they took a nine point lead into the fourth and subsequently grabbed a victory from the jaws of defeat. The Celtics’ strong showing in the third was keyed by 18 points in the quarter from Paul Pierce. Pierce finished with 26 points and 9 rebounds.
The Hawks refused to go quietly, until the Celtics stood tall to earn a hard fought victory. With 4:16 remaining, Paul Pierce drew a charge on a drive by Josh Smith, giving the Celtics the ball with a seven point lead. After a missed three point attempt by Jason Terry, the rebound was snatched by Rajon Rondo, giving him a triple-double (14 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) and the team more possession time. With the shot clock ticking down, Brandon Bass knocked down a big jump shot to give the Celtics a nine-point lead.
On the ensuing possession, Bass deflected a Smith pass and threw it ahead to Rondo for an easy layup, pushing the lead to 11 points with 3:10 left on the clock. The Celtics managed to hold on and earned a huge road win against one of the stronger teams in the East.
The win was huge for a number of reasons, but the ability of the team to comeback from a tough first half with a strong third quarter and a grind it out fourth, can’t be overstated. The team now has two straight wins against teams ahead of the them in the Eastern Conference standings, and the road victory snaps a three-game road losing streak.
The Celtics came out firing on all cylinders in the third with 14-1. The Celtics also managed to out rebound Atlanta 44-36 overall.
Rondo receives much credit for his 25th career Triple Double. The victory was sealed with the efforts of Bass, whose big shot late and deflected pass prevented Atlanta from staging a comeback of their own.
After a much deserved day off, Boston will head into a showdown on Monday night with the New York Knicks (23-10), who are currently percentage points behind the Miami Heat (22-9) for first in the Eastern Conference. The game will be a true test for the Celtics, as they try to climb back up to .500 on the season.