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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Celtics top Hawks in OT, go up 2-1


BOSTON — Rajon Rondo spun at the free throw line, leaving one defender behind, and rose toward the basket. Out of the corner of one eye, he saw another Atlanta player coming to guard him; with his other eye he spied teammate Paul Pierce open in the corner.

News photo
Long-distance delivery: Boston's Ray Allen puts up a jumper over Atlanta's Jannero Pargo in the first quarter of Game 3 on Friday night. The Celtics downed the Hawks 90-84 and lead the series 2-1. AP

"You have to pick your poison," Hawks swingman Tracy McGrady said. "When he's doing things like that, you don't know what to do."

Rondo returned from a one-game suspension for bumping an official and recorded his seventh career playoff triple-double on Friday night, leading the Celtics to a 90-84 overtime victory over the Hawks that gave Boston a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Celtics point guard had 17 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists one game after sitting out for bumping referee Marc Davis in the closing minutes of the series opener. Rondo did not have a basket in the first half of Game 3, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he noticed Rondo struggling to run the offensive plays.

"Then, finally, I told him: 'Just be a scorer. Just attack.' " Rivers said. "And I thought that freed him up."

Rondo made the first two baskets of overtime, including a post-up hook shot over Jeff Teague that gave Boston the lead for good.

"I felt good about all the shots I took," Rondo said. "My teammates told me to stay aggressive. Nights like tonight when I take a lot of shots, I finally found a way to get my team a win."

Game 4 is Sunday night.

Ray Allen returned for Boston after missing almost a month and scored 13 points in 38 minutes. Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Pierce had 21 points one game after scoring 36 points with 14 rebounds to help the Celtics swipe home-court advantage with a Game 2 victory in Atlanta.

Joe Johnson scored 29 points and Teague had 23 for the Hawks. McGrady had 12 points — his highest total since he had 40 for Houston in 2008 — but 10 were in the first half, before he landed awkwardly on his right ankle and went to the locker room. He did not have a field goal in the second half.

"I know I'll be sore tomorrow. I can feel it already," he said. "It affected my shot. I had no lift. It affected my cutting. I'll just go and get treatment tomorrow."

Boston went on an 11-1 run to open a double-digit lead with 7 minutes to play in regulation, but Atlanta rallied and tied it 80-80 on Johnson's 3-pointer with 1:23 left. Both teams failed to score on their next two possessions, leaving the Celtics with the ball out of bounds with 3.9 seconds left.

Rondo inbounded to Pierce, who was defended by Johnson and had to take a long, fallaway jumper that bounced off the rim at the buzzer.

"There were a few possessions it seemed no one could score," Johnson said. "We definitely felt like we let one get away. We felt like this was our chance to get one."

The Celtics got Rondo back from his one-game suspension and Allen back on the court for the first time since April 10. He played just five games over the final month of the regular season because of bone spurs in his right ankle and missed the first two games of the playoffs as well.

The Hawks kept losing players. With top centers Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia already out, forward Josh Smith was scratched with a sprained tendon in his left knee.

"I thought we were depleted but we were still in a position where we could have won the game," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said.

76ers 79, Hawks 74

In Philadelphia, Spencer Hawes scored 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds and hit the go-ahead jumper late in the fourth quarter to help the 76ers rally past Chicago and take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series.

Hawes scored 10 points in the fourth quarter for eighth-seeded Philadelphia.

Already playing the rest of the series without reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls got another scare in the third quarter when Joakim Noah left with a sprained left ankle. Noah, who scored 12 points, returned in the fourth quarter and mostly hobbled around the court.

Carlos Boozer had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls and Richard Hamilton added 17.

Nuggets 99, Lakers 84

In Denver, Ty Lawson scored 25 points and the Nuggets raced to an early 24-point lead in Game 3 of the first-round series.

JaVale McGee had 16 points and 15 rebounds for Denver, which will try to even the best-of-seven series at two games each on Sunday night at the Pepsi Center.

The Nuggets grabbed a 55-39 halftime lead by stifling Andrew Bynum down low and forcing Kobe Bryant to work harder for his baskets.

Bryant finished with 22 points on 7-of-23 shooting and Bynum had 18 points and 12 rebounds.

Kenneth Faried had 12 points and 15 rebounds as Denver outrebounded the Lakers 55-44. The Nuggets' bench outscored Los Angeles' reserves 39-9.

Stoudemire works out


Amare Stoudemire had a message for his teammates after watching the New York Knicks' latest postseason failure.

"I was like, 'Don't hit nothing,' " Stoudemire said.

A 3-0 deficit against the Miami Heat and an NBA-record, 13-game postseason losing streak may be a strange time for humor, but there was something else to brighten the Knicks' mood Friday.

Stoudemire worked out with his lacerated left hand wrapped and could be in uniform Sunday when the Knicks try to avoid the sweep.

"I think he's going to play," interim coach Mike Woodson said. "I think he wants to play and again, if doctors say he's ready to play and they release him, then I'm going to play him."

Stoudemire was more cautious, sticking with the Knicks' original update that he was doubtful.

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