Kevin Garnett partied like it was 1999; or at least 2008; on Thursday night at the “New Garden” in Boston, as he racked up a double-double including a game high 28 points, as he strapped the Boston Celtics on his back and defeat the Atlanta Hawks 83-80, winning their first round match-up in six games and advancing to the Eastern Conference semi-finals. For at least one night, the “Big Ticket” was back on the floor for Boston, bringing back memories of when he helped the “Green Team” win their first NBA Title since 1986 against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008.
The Celtics would take control of the contest during the second quarter, and hold the advantage through the third period. The Hawks would grab the edge late in the final period as Josh Smith and then Al Horford drove to the basket to put their team on top 79-76 with 2:23 left to play. That would be when the Boston veterans took over, as Paul Pierce drove the lane to cut the Hawks lead to one point, then Garnett knocked down a mid-range jumper with 30 seconds remaining to put the Celtics ahead 80-79. Ray Allen split a pair at the line and then Pierce knocked down two at the charity stripe with one second on the clock to ice the game and the series.
The two teams had met in the first round of the 2008 Post Season with the Celtics the top seed in the East and Atlanta the eighth seed, making their first Playoff appearance in years. The Hawks came into the Playoffs withe just a 40-42 record during the regular season; however they took Boston to the brink before they lost in the seventh game of the match-up. The team from Atlanta came of age in that series and they have been contenders in the Eastern Conference ever since.
With the Hawks capturing the number four seed on the last day of the regular season; many NBA observers expected this series to be the closing of the circle that began four years ago. Age and injuries had many convinced that Boston would be leaving the Playoffs after the opening round with Atlanta facing the Chicago Bulls in the next round. As it turns out neither Chicago or Atlanta will be moving forward, as the Celtics will host the Philadelphia 76ers to open the next round on Saturday. Kevin Garnett helped the Celtics to open their window of opportunity a lot wider on Thursday night.