Celtics stunned again by Hawks

From the Associated Press

The Boston Celtics were supposed to be resting by now, getting ready for the next round of the playoffs.

Instead, they’re headed home all tied up with the Atlanta Hawks.

Joe Johnson scored 35 points, 20 in the fourth quarter, and Josh Smith had 28 points and seven blocked shots for Atlanta, which surprised the Celtics again, 97-92, on Monday night to even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series at 2-2.

“We took care of our home court,” Johnson said. “Now we’ve got to go up to Boston and somehow steal one.”


The Hawks had the worst record (37-45) of any playoff team, and they certainly played like it in the first two games at Boston, losing them by an average of 21 points. But Atlanta looked like a different team at home against 66-win Boston, especially after trailing, 16-3, at the start Monday.

“We’ve got to find ourselves real quick,” Boston’s Sam Cassell said. “We’ve got to find our team identity, our team chemistry, we’ve got to find all that real quick.”

The credit for this Atlanta stunner goes largely to Johnson, who took control in the final quarter. After Smith’s jumper put the Hawks ahead to stay, 81-79, Johnson scored nine straight points to keep the Celtics on the ropes.

The knockout came when Boston’s Paul Pierce drove to the basket in the final seconds and left it short.


Smith went to the other end and made two free throws with 26 seconds remaining for a 93-87 lead. Johnson -- appropriately enough -- finished off the Celtics by making two more foul shots with 14 seconds left.

“Basketball is a strange thing,” Cassell said. “Strange things happen.”

Ray Allen led Boston with 21 points. Kevin Garnett had 20.

“Give the Hawks credit,” Boston Coach Doc Rivers said. “This series hasn’t started yet, because no one has won a road game. It’s a tough loss for us, but we get a chance to take it back to Boston and see what we can do.”

Orlando 102, Toronto 92 -- Dwight Howard had 21 points and 21 rebounds to lead the host Magic to its first series victory since 1996, when Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway led the team to the Eastern Conference finals.

Orlando, which won the series in five games, will play the winner of the Detroit-Philadelphia series, which is tied, 2-2.

It was Howard’s third game with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in the series.

Raptors forward Chris Bosh, frustrated down low by Howard, had 16 points on seven-for-19 shooting and nine rebounds.


Jameer Nelson scored 19 points for Orlando, and Rashard Lewis had 18 points and 13 rebounds. Hedo Turkoglu had 12 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.