Celtics 99, Hawks 93

Mind over matter for Celtics

Davis picks up slack for injured Garnett

By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / March 28, 2009
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ATLANTA - The Celtics took care of business on the floor again with Kevin Garnett away from it.

The Garnett-less Celtics were up 20 points before defeating the Hawks, 99-93, at Philips Arena last night.

The Celtics are 11-6 this season without Garnett, who missed the game because of right knee soreness. The Celtics (55-19) are percentage points behind Orlando (54-18) for the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

"Mental toughness," coach Doc Rivers said of winning without Garnett. "We have a group that believes it can win any game no matter who is on the floor."

Garnett, who declined interview requests, missed his 14th game of the season because of right knee ailments. Rivers said Garnett is expected to miss tomorrow night's game against Oklahoma City. With some solid practices, he could return Wednesday against Charlotte.

Glen Davis earned a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds in 43 minutes playing in place of Garnett.

"We just went out there and played basketball," Davis said. "No matter who's injured or who's hurt, we have to step up and play big. Our job is to go out there and play the game the way it's supposed to be played."

"We can't cry over spilled milk," added Paul Pierce, who poured in 21 points. "Hopefully, [Garnett] can just be healthy for the playoffs. Right now, that's the main concern. Kevin is going to do what he needs to do to get back out there. Meanwhile, the guys have to do what they need to do to step up."

Ray Allen scored a team-high 22 points and nailed three 3-pointers, and the Celtics received help off the bench. Eddie House had 12 points and hit 2 of 4 3-pointers, and Stephon Marbury scored a season-high 11 points. Atlanta's Josh Smith and Joe Johnson each had 22 points.

"They banged a little bit harder than we did, and they hustled a lot harder than we did," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said.

The Celtics had a 52-42 lead at halftime after Marbury nailed a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left. Boston made 6 of 12 treys in the first half, including three from Marbury and two from House. The Hawks were limited to 38.1 percent shooting in the half.

"We came out flat," said Hawks guard Flip Murray, who shot 4 of 13. "We didn't come out with any aggressiveness, and they outworked us."

The Celtics opened the third quarter with 7-2 run, topped off by an Allen jumper, to take a 59-44 lead. A second later, Woodson called time out. Boston finished the third with a 77-60 lead after a dunk by Davis.

Allen's 3-pointer on a pass from Marbury gave the Celtics an 89-69 lead with 6:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, but the Hawks (42-31) stormed back. A 15-2 run trimmed their deficit to 91-84 after a fast-break dunk by Smith with 2:52 left. With Atlanta challenging, Allen silenced the crowd with a 12-foot running jumper to give the Celtics a 95-88 lead. But Johnson followed with a 3-pointer with 1:11 left to keep Atlanta within reach at 95-91.

Pierce and Atlanta's Maurice Evans traded free throws, but after Allen rebounded a Pierce miss, he was fouled and sealed the game by making two free throws with 18 seconds left to push the Celtics ahead, 99-93.

The Celtics have a 3-0 season series lead against the Hawks with one game remaining, in Boston.

"We didn't play until the five-minute mark in the fourth quarter, and you can't beat a team like Boston when you don't start playing until then," Woodson said. "I thought they were the more aggressive team."

Said Rivers, "We made time short, too. It was amazing how many shots Ray made or Paul made out of a timeout or a broken play."

The Celtics finish the regular season with six of their final eight contests at home. Their next road game isn't until April 12 at Cleveland.

"We only have two road games the rest of the year, we have time off, we have practice time," Rivers said.

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