I didn't see anything last night that leads me to believe that Atlanta stands much of a chance Sunday of doing the once-unthinkable and beating the Boston Celtics in a seven-game playoff series but there's plenty to honor and celebrate in the wake of witnessing the Hawks beat the Celtics three times in the last week. I don't recall a sensible, serious person predicting anything more optimistic for the Hawks than "maybe they could sneak a victory at home if Boston loses all interest in the series before it's over." The Celtics haven't appeared disinterested or distracted in any of the six games thus far, the Hawks have simply raised their collective game in the playoffs. At least when they've received the support of their home crowd.
While I may not be optimistic about Sunday's game, I'm struggling to restrain my optimism for next year. The Hawks beat the Celtics last night without a lot going right. Outside of Marvin Williams consistently knocking down open jumpers, the referees fouling out Paul Pierce on a play that's a non-call on the approximately one-third of all possessions in which it generally occurs, and Ray Allen going 1-8 from the floor in the fourth quarter, I can't think of anything significant and/or unusual that benefited Atlanta.
On the other hand...
- Al Horford sat out the entire second quarter with two fouls.
- Josh Smith committed a hideously dumb fourth foul 4:10 into the third quarter and spent all but 5 of the remaining 20 minutes of the game on the bench.
- Josh Smith turned the ball over 6 times.
- Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby combined to shoot 10-30 from the floor.
- Mike Woodson picked up a technical foul less than a minute into the second half that, rather than firing up his team or the crowd, seemed to confuse the former and deflate the latter and lead to a 7-0 Celtics run over the next two minutes.
- Atlanta made two field goals over the last eight minutes of the game, neither of them the result of a good offensive possession. There weren't any missed shots that came off of good looks created by the offense, either. It was an awful display of half-court offense best exemplified by Woodson calling a timeout with 2:46 left in the game following which the Hawks came out and ran absolutely nothing before getting bailed out by Ray Allen tripping Mike Bibby with (at most) :01 left on the shot clock.
- Mike Woodson chose to use an obviously hobbled and possibly injured Marvin Williams as a defensive replacement for the last 20 seconds. One can never question Marvin's effort but even without the distraction of physical pain he's not an exemplar of good decision making.
Of course, we may not have to wait that long.