I wondered aloud following the victory over Orlando earlier in the week whether or not the Hawks could duplicate that kind of effort in consecutive games against quality opponents. After all that isn't something we have seen from this team even at home this season. In fact Atlanta went down 12 points two different times in the third quarter before righting the ship and finishing the period by closing the lead down to just six points.
Consider that Atlanta won this game despite shooting only 37% and turning the ball over 10 times. Conversely Boston shot 45% and only turned the ball over six times. The Hawks won this game by getting to the free throw line and by attacking the Celtics on the offensive glass. Atlanta went 26-30 from the free throw line and held a 14-3 advantage on the offensive glass.
Atlanta won this game despite Joe Johnson's 4-20 shooting night. However, Johnson did manage to get to the free throw line a team high 11 times making 10 for 19 points. Jamal Crawford scored 15 of his team high 20 points in the first half and dare I say looked more Jamal Crawford like in this one. Al Horford finished the game with 16 points and 15 rebounds and was a major catalyst in the Hawks 52-38 rebounding advantage.
Even with all of that, the Hawks don't win this game without the effort of Zaza Pachulia. It was his gritty effort and willingness to mix it up that seemed to have a profound effect on his teammates. Pachulia finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Pachulia was on the floor instead of Josh Smith throughout crunch time. Many times we have seen this team go down ten points and then proceed to fold up like a tent. Tonight, they took the Celtics punch and then hit back.
This win like the Orlando win doesn't necessarily mean that the Hawks have turned the corner. There was still many things on the court that need to be either fixed or shored up before the playoffs begin. The Celtics were coming off a very difficult back to back having won in San Antonio last night. Atlanta outscored them 26-15 in the fourth quarter which could have been a sign that the Celtics' veteran legs were gone by the time the fourth got there.
Still this was a game that the Hawks wouldn't have won a month ago. The fact that they overcame a sub par offensive night from just about everyone to win a game on effort and grit says something. Doesn't it?