The Big Three had nothing on the Big Two down the stretch. While Boston's Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce misfired throughout the fourth quarter as their 10-point lead frittered away, Joe Johnson (pictured) and Josh Smith combined for Atlanta's last 34 points to spirit the Hawks to victory. Johnson, a former Boston first-round draft pick, poured in 20 of his game-high 35 points during the final period to the delight of an electric Philips Arena audience. No Atlanta player besides Johnson or Smith would go into the scorebook after Marvin Williams deposited a pair of free throws to give Atlanta a 63-62 lead with 3:58 left in the third quarter. Johnson might have been the biggest difference-maker for the Hawks during crunch time, but Smith enjoyed the better all-around night on both ends of the court. The fourth-year forward finished with 28 points and six rebounds -- and his game-high seven blocks helped neutralize the Boston offense while setting an appropriately aggressive defensive tone for the undersized Atlanta frontcourt. The Celtics exploded out of the locker room with 13 points in the first three minutes, dialing up their full-court press in the first minute and making six of their first seven shots. Allen, Garnett and Pierce combined for 16 points before the Hawks could even put down their first field goal of the game (a Smith jumper more than five minutes in). Credit the Hawks with weathering Boston's early blitzkrieg and digging back from a 16-3 hole. As Garnett and Pierce took seats on the bench with their second fouls, the Hawks closed the quarter with a 20-3 run to take a 29-24 lead through 12 minutes. Atlanta coach Mike Woodson has gone with a reduced rotation in this series, coaxing increased workloads out of his starters. But the Hawks got a valuable contribution off the bench Monday from Josh Childress, who had two points and nine rebounds in 32 minutes. While the Stanford product's individual contributions might seem modest, his positive effect on the team's offensive flow is obvious from the stat sheet: The Hawks were plus-18 with Childress in the lineup. After winning the first two games of this best-of-seven series by 23 and 19 points, respectively, the shell-shocked Celtics must limp back to Beantown for Wednesday's pivotal Game 5. But even if Boston holds serve on its home court and survives this first-round series, the Hawks have done a whole lot to undermine the aura of invincibility the top-seeded Celtics carried into these playoffs in the wake of a 66-16 regular season. Atlanta hasn't necessarily put down a blueprint for beating Boston, but it's proved the Celtics can look merely mortal against athletic, resilient teams capable of taking a punch and punching back.
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