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Celtics post another tough win
Boston forward Brandon Bass dunks over Atlanta Hawks forward Ivan Johnson (44) in the first quarter of Wednesday's game. (David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE)
BOSTON -- They had to work overtime to get it, and the end of the game defies description because of a series of officials' calls, but the Celtics beat Atlanta Wednesday in a game that could have playoff ramifications.
By pulling out the 88-86 OT win, their fourth straight victory, the Celtics pulled even with the Hawks in the Eastern Conference standings and would own a tiebreaker if the teams finish tied and face each other in a playoff series -- thus gaining home court.
There were only six points scored in the overtime, and the last Boston points came on a Paul Pierce jumper with 3:26 left. Neither team scored over the final 2:24 as the Celtics absorbed the fouling out of both starting center Kevin Garnett (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Greg Stiemsma (eight rebounds) to survive amid a series of wild calls.
The Hawks' last chance to tie died with a Josh Smith missed jumper with about five seconds left.
Rajon Rando recorded his sixth triple-double of the season, the 19th of his career, with 10 points (only 3-for-16 from the floor and six turnovers), 10 rebounds and 20 assists, his 19th straight game with double figures in assists. He assisted on both Boston baskets in the overtime.
With Ray Allen again out with an ankle injury, Mickael Pietrus returned from his concussion-caused absence and had eight points, including two big baskets at the start of the fourth quarter.
Brandon Bass had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Pierce 14 points for the Celtics, while point guard Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 21 points and six assists and Smith had 21 points and 10 boards.
Rondo picked up his 10th assist setting up Garnett with 8:10 left in the third quarter, adding to his club record. His 19 straight games represent the longest such streak since John Stockton had 29 in a row in 1992. The 29 in a row is the longest streak ever amassed in the same season.
Boston has won 10 of its last 11 at home.
The Hawks, who led by eight at the half, 48-40, needed just 94 seconds to run off 11 straight points early, taking a 13-4 lead just 3:22 in. But the Celtics, behind Rajon Rondo's passing, outscored Atlanta 22-10 the rest of the quarter to lead by one point after the first quarter, 26-25. Rondo assisted on six straight baskets during the run, ending the quarter with seven assists.
Pietrus entered the game with 3:22 left in the first quarter. He took and made his first shot 1:25 into the second quarter, drove hard to the basket and was fouled soon after. He left six minutes into the second quarter.
Three straight turnovers helped keep the Celtics from scoring a basket over the final 4:24 of the half. They had 12 total turnovers in the half, the same number they had in the entire game in Miami Tuesday night.
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NOTES: Having played two straight nights, the Celtics follow an off day with the dreaded three-in-three-nights slate all teams must play in the abbreviated schedule, visiting Toronto, New Jersey and Charlotte. The Hawks are at Orlando Friday night. They had their three-straight-night thing back in early January, going 2-1 against Miami, Charlotte and Chicago, losing at home to the Heat in triple overtime Jan. 5. ... Before the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers, talking about Pietrus, said, "He's been cleared, he worked out [Tuesday], and this is good for him. We'll ease him in, instead of just throwing him in. That's how we're going to do it. It's not like he's going to have any practices. The sooner we can get him on the floor, the better. And all the doctors cleared him, so once I hear that, then he's ready to play." ... Allen missed six games with the ankle, returned for five and was out again. "It just swells, I guess," said Rivers. "I don't know. I got a call a little while ago [that Allen would be out]. It is what it is."