They may be right.
This may not be a rivalry.
With the Atlanta Hawks 100-91 home win over the Boston Celtics, the Hawks have swept the C's for the first time in a four game series since 1995-1996, yet another one of the many "sinces" the Hawks have picked off this season.
The Hawks did this on a Friday night where they started each half slow and failed to the move the ball in the fourth quarter--well, unless you count dribbling.
Still, for the fourth time this season, the Hawks came out victorious over Boston. They didn't need miracles (though Jamal Crawford's half court shot may apply---though we were thinking "money" when he launched---admit it, you were too.) or some kind of officiatorial gift (they were handing those out to both teams all night). No, the Hawks did as they have done in all four games this season; taken advantage of the Celtics voluminous turnovers and turned them into points while using their length and athleticism to frustrate Boston on offense.
In the second quarter, it was the energy of Jamal Crawford that took the Hawks' stagnant offense and stuck a streak shooting roman candle in its rear end. Crawford had (18) first half points, including that humdinger of a half court shot after getting the ball with a little over three seconds left. In a similar situation, running the same play against San Antonio, Josh Smith didn't get the ball to Crawford, electing instead to try and whip the ball further down the court to Marvin Williams, which didn't work. Jamal gently gestured to Smith as if to say "no, no, get me the ball." Friday, against the Celtics, the Hawks did, and Jamal delivered to help give the Hawks a (12) point lead at the half.
In the fourth quarter, the Hawks found themselves clinging to their lead, having given all but a single point back to Boston with a seriously malodorous third quarter shooting effort, multiple technical fouls, turnovers, and (20) Celtic free throws (of which 19 were made).
And though we don't approve, the fourth quarter was turned over to the "Joe on Five" offensive playbook. Fortunately for the Hawks, it was a night that Joe Johnson was "on". For sure.
Johnson shot 7-9 in the fourth quarter as he famously dribbled, dribbled, crossed over, pulled back, and then dropped jumpers in Celtic faces. The only shot Johnson was way off on in the fourth was one that THHB swears they saw every Celtic swarming Joe while he shot back across his body. But other than that? String music, daddy-o.
This wasn't a night where Joe and Jamal would try to one-up each other on hero duty. This was Joe's night and Jamal wasn't intruding on his all-star teammate, though he was effective and important on his end as well.
Jamal attempted a mere (3) shots in the quarter and made two of them. One was a running 20-footer that he banked of the glass while drawing contact from Rajon Rondo. The other was a gut punch to Celtic fans who were watching their team attempt a final run. Boston had just retained possession after an offensive rebound when Rondo committed his fourth turnover. Crawford slapped away Rajon's pass and headed to the other end for the easy dunk. After a Joe three answered a Pierce triple, the game and this series, was over.
Sweeping Away the C's Like Confetti
Sure we know it doesn't mean as much as a playoff series, but we would like to know how the Celtics care to spin how much more athletic and effective the Hawks are against them. Sure the playoffs take it up another notch but these games have sure seemed playoff-y to us. Chippiness, physical play, and lots of minutes played by the key players. We're guessing that Boston has seen enough of Atlanta and would wish not to have to face the Hawks in any round of the playoffs this year.
We are not going to forget the (8) point second quarter of Zaza Pachulia--the big fella was fantastic. In games like this, and especially this opponent, Pachulia wakes up like Dickie V when the camera lights go on. In one sequence in his quarter, Zaza set a screen, then graciously accepted a Jamal pass and hit the jumper. Then, just as quick as he was backpedalling down the floor, he reversed direction to steal the inbounds pass at midcourt. Then, with no Celtic offering resistance, Pachulia casually laid the ball in the basket. Simply marvelous.
Mike Bibby had another rough night, this time largely due to the abuse the Celtics were giving him on the defensive end, where he picked up quick fouls and never could get into a flow of the game. Bibby logged only (9) minutes and was the only Hawk in the minus column of +/- with a gruesome (-11).
As good as Pachulia's play and a later pass/dunk from Al Horford to Josh Smith was, the play of the night was a trail block by Jeff Teague who after the block, got the ball back, went the length of the floor, and hit Jamal Crawford for a three point basket, the first of Crawford's game high (28) points. That basket officially erased the early lead Boston got out to and the Hawks would soon take control of the game.
It wasn't how we'd like to see the Hawks attack the game, especially late, but as Coach Woodson likes to say, it's sweet when the shots are falling, and Friday night, in the fourth quarter, off the hands of Joe Johnson, they certainly were.