May 01, 2008
Fast Breaks: Celtics-Hawks
By Ian Thomsen
Game 5   Leaders
Celtics lead series 3-2   Points Rebounds Assists
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Elsa/Getty Images
• The Celtics responded to their two losses in Atlanta by winning every quarter and controlling the pace while outscoring the Hawks 10-4 in fast-break points. They held the Hawks to 40.6 percent shooting for the game, and just five assists on 13 field goals in the first half.Yet the Hawks demonstrated they are going to be a tough out in Game 6 Friday in Atlanta. They made a run to cut the Celtics' lead to six points midway through the third quarter, and they were within 14 entering the final five minutes before Boston broke it open once and for all. "We still haven't won a road game," coach Doc Rivers said of his Celtics, who won a league-leading 31 on the road during the season. "We need to do that."

• While Rivers was happy with Paul Pierce's increased aggressiveness in Game 4, he was looking for more production from his All-Star. Pierce (right) responded with a terrific opening quarter of 10 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists to lead the Celtics out of the gate. Pierce (20 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists overall) persistently spun into the lane to finish difficult drives with either hand, and in the second quarter he uncorked a Willie Mays throw to Rajon Rondo for a transition score that typified the Celtics' desire to run whenever possible. "His play in the first quarter was huge," said Rivers. "It set the tone for us tonight."

• The Celtics ensured this crucial win by closing out the middle quarters. When the Hawks trimmed five points off their deficit to come within 51-41 entering the final minute of the opening half, the Celtics turned a flagrant 1 foul by Al Horford into a five-point play (on Kevin Garnett's free throws followed by a Ray Allen three) to take a 58-43 lead to intermission. Then Atlanta made an 11-point game of it in the final minute of the third period, only to watch Pierce bank in a spinning drive over Josh Smith and Horford for a three-point play, followed by a James Posey transition three at the end of the quarter to create an 81-64 advantage entering the fourth.

• It's hard to dislike Joe Johnson, even after he smoked the Celtics for 20 points in the fourth quarter of Game 4. "Joe Johnson, you've got a boring name!" a fan yelled as Johnson lined up for a third-quarter free throw. "Your name is boring!" P.J. Brown or Garnett came out to the three-point line to occasionally double Johnson off the ball. He still managed 21 points, but was limited to 11 shots while playing just 13 minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls.

• After suffering seven blocks by Smith in Game 4, the Celtics dominated that category 9-3 on Wednesday. "We spaced the floor better," said Rivers. "We showed the guards (on video) where (Smith) was going to be. He's helping off Kevin: If a guy helps off Kevin, we have to find Kevin. He's been there, we just haven't found him." Consistent ball movement resulted in six players scoring in double figures, and every starter but center Kendrick Perkins produced at least four assists.

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