BOSTON - Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said that the Hawks would have to play a "near perfect" game in order to beat the Celtics Monday night at the Garden.
It didn't matter to him that Kevin Garnett (hyperextended knee), his replacement Rasheed Wallace (sore left forefoot), and talented swingman Marquis Daniels (thumb/wrist) were not going to be in the Celtics lineup, or the fact that the Hawks entered the game 2-0 against the Celtics this year.
Even shorthanded, Woodson still considers the Celtics to be one of the best teams in the NBA, and his young and talented Hawks are fighting to become a team like the Celtics this season.
The Hawks were far from perfect on the parquet floor, but they played good enough to beat the Celtics for the third time this season, this time by the score of 102-96.
Boston coach Doc Rivers has nobody to blame but himself, and the referees of course.
The Celtics were up, 67-57, with 6:16 remaining in the third quarter and looking like they were on their way to an easy victory when everything changed.
That's when Atlanta forward Marvin Williams was about to make a layup on a fast break and Glen Davis grabbed him from behind while trying to block his shot. Rivers didn't like the call, waived his arms in the air, and began arguing with one of the referees. One of the refs gave Rivers back-to-back technicals and threw him out of the game. Then assistant coach Armond Hill started arguing with the ref and he got a technical.
The Celtics quickly went from a team in control to a team out of synch after that, and the Hawks, sensing that the Celtics were reeling after Rivers got ejected, came roaring back.
Atlanta slashed Boston's lead all the way down to 80-77 by the end of the third quarter, and took control of the game in the fourth quarter to steal the win.
Atlanta took their first lead of the game since the first quarter on a Josh Smith 19-foot jumper with 5:26 remaining in the game, giving the Hawks an 89-88 lead. The two teams would go back-and-forth exchanging buckets after that until Johnson sank a 21-foot baseline jumper that gave Atlanta a 94-93 lead. That was a lead they would not relinquish.
Smith followed-up Johnson's shot with a two-handed dunk with 2:44 remaining, and the Celtics called a timeout to try to regroup and after the break, Glen Davis tied the score at 96-96 with a layup and free throw, but from then on it was all Atlanta.
Jamal Crawford would score the game's final seven points to seal the win for Hawks in a game that was marred with controversial calls. The two referees had to be escorted out of the arena by security while boos came raining down from the Boston fans.
Rajon Rondo (26 points, 7 assists), Paul Pierce (19 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) and Ray Allen (16 points, 5 rebounds) led the Celtics while Joe Johnson (36 points), Marvin Williams (14 points, 8 rebounds), Smith (14 points), and Crawford, who scored all 17 points in the second half, led Atlanta.