Three down, one to go. After a flat performance in the series opener, the Boston Celtics have rattled off three straight wins and now have the Atlanta Hawks on the brink of elimination heading into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Tuesday night.
Boston is riding into what it hopes is its last game against Atlanta this season after playing its most complete game of the postseason in Game 4 on Sunday night at TD Garden. From start to finish, the Celtics systematically picked apart the Hawks, winning 101-79 in a game they led by 37 points in the second half, giving them a commanding 3-1 series advantage.
"I thought it was a great win," said Paul Pierce. "We played well, and it's definitely the best we've played this series. We haven't really played well yet, we've just been winning games. Finally we were able to put it together offensively and defensively and really play well."
Pierce led the Celtics with 24 points in 17 minutes and Rajon Rondo had 20 points and 16 assists. Pierce joined the list of injured Celtics after bumping his left knee against Hawks guard Joe Johnson while coming around a screen in the second quarter. Pierce would return to start the second half, but left the game early in the third and did not return.
Josh Smith and Al Horford both made their returns for Atlanta, but their presence wasn't enough to save the Hawks. Smith, who missed Game 3 after spraining his left knee in Game 2, led the team with 15 points and 13 rebounds while Horford, who hadn't played since January with a chest injury, had 12 points and five rebounds in his 2012 playoff debut.
Boston opened the series on the losing end, falling 83-74 in Game 1, but they lost more than just the game. Rondo bought himself a one-game suspension, which held him out of Game 2, thanks to a chest bump to referee Marc Davis. But that didn't stop Pierce from having a big game in Game 2, as he scored 36 points and had 14 rebounds in a series-shifting 87-80 win. The Celtics won Game 3, 90-84, in overtime before winning Game 4.
While the Celtics have created some breathing room, they do not want to let up one bit.
"You don't want to give a team any confidence," said the ever-confident Pierce. "You got to go down to Atlanta with the right mindset. You don't want to bring it back to Boston because anything could happen. The NBA is a weird league, one game could give a team confidence. We hope that we can just take them and advance in the series this next game."
Tip-off is schedule for 8 p.m. EST and the game will be televised on TNT and CSNNE.