So much for Thursday night in San Antonio.
The Celtics, disinterested in prosperity over the past month, deposited any good will engendered by their win over the Spurs on Thursday in the trash with an 88-83 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night. As they have so many times in the past four weeks, the C's, who arrived in Atlanta from San Antonio at 4 a.m. on Friday, tired in the fourth, wasting a double digit lead and allowing a seemingly inferior opponent that appeared defeated to hang around long enough to take advantage of their lack of proficiency on the offensive end in the late going. The loss, combined with wins by Chicago and Miami, knocked the Celts (52-23) back into third place in the Eastern Conference, a half game behind the Heat for second and three games behind the Bulls for first.
Leading 68-62 headed into the fourth, the Celts were outscored 26-15 in the final frame, making just five of 17 shots from the floor. Paul Pierce led the C's with 25 points and eight rebounds but was just 4-of-10 from the floor in the second half. The C's, who followed up a 31 point second quarter with a 31 point second half, shot 44.6 percent but were brutal from the free throw line, converting just 11 of their 20 attempts. The Hawks (44-32) also took advantage of the C's lack of size up front, outrebounding Boston 52-38.
Rajon Rondo put up another solid game with 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, but didn't take a shot in the fourth quarter. Kevin Garnett added 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in just 27 minutes and Delonte West posted 10 points and five assists off the bench. Ray Allen was again a forgotten man for the C's, taking just nine shots on the night, only one of them in the fourth quarter. Jermaine O'Neal, in his second game back after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in January, had one point and one rebound in 15 minutes.
The Hawks won this one despite shooting just 37 percent from the floor. Jamal Crawford led the way with 20 points off the bench while Joe Johnson scored 19 on just 4-of-20 from the floor. Al Horford, who gave Atlanta a five point lead with a big tip-in with just 7.9 seconds to play, registered his 35th double-double of the season with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Unlike the C's, the Hawks took advantage from the foul line, making 26 of their 30 attempts.
This was the final game of a four-game road trip for the C's, who were 2-2 over that stretch. They return home Sunday for a 6 p.m. EDT, meeting with the Detroit Pistons.