ATLANTA It usually takes more than a half of good play to win a game. But for the Boston Celtics, one half of exceptional play may have turned around their entire season.
The Celtic's dominant third quarter performance against the Atlanta Hawks not only propelled them to a 89-81 comeback win, but may have been just what this team needed to jumpstart their season.
In the third, Boston outscored the Atlanta Hawks 33-9 with Paul Pierce leading the way with 17 of his team-high 26 points in the third.
"Coming out there and throwing that first punch" was how Celtics guard Courtney Lee described the C's efforts in the third. "They were too comfortable ... way too comfortable."
Lee was speaking specifically about Lou Williams and Jeff Teague who had 21 and 13 points, respectively, in the first half. In the third quarter, Williams had five points while Teague missed his lone shot attempt from the field.
The ease at which Williams and Teague were scoring was something that
Lee and the rest of Boston's perimeter defenders took to heart coming out to start the half.
"We wanted to pick up the intensity, try to make everything hard on their guards," C's guard Avery Bradley told CSNNE.com. "Pick up the tempo on defense."
Added Jason Terry: "We took it personal. You come in at halftime, Lou Williams has 21 points, primarily on easy baskets. He was in rhythm, just catching it and letting it fly. And so we wanted to invade his space; we wanted to get up in Teague and make him work a little bit harder. And as we did that, our bigs were playing great 'D' all night. As we did that, we started to get more and more stops. And with stops, we got some of the best offensive weapons in the game."
The most lethal of those weapons was Pierce. But as impressive as his scoring binge in the third quarter was, the C's are mindful that their success on Saturday - and to a large degree this season - will have to be in their defense which was on full display in the third quarter.
"We're starting to commit ourselves towards the defensive end," said Kevin Garnett. "Defense takes a lot of energy, takes grit and each guy was willing to do just that. These last two games, you've been seeing us a lot more firm than we had been in the previous. These last two games, we have been firm, aggressive, going for steals and it starts with Rondo and Avery."
At the half, Rondo and Bradley stayed in the locker room a little while longer than the rest of their teammates watching film, looking for ways to limit dribble penetration by Teague and Williams which was the primary reason the C's were in such a deep hole.
"We wanted to make them playmakers," Rondo said. "They're both scoring guards. We tried to make them make plays."