Pretty? Who cares about pretty? Survive and advance.
Game 6 Thursday night was the kind of scrappy, weird game that the Celtics just always seem to win at home. The kind of game where the ghosts of Celtics teams past that haunt the Garden seem to help them. The kind of games where it takes Atlanta’s Al Horford fouling Ryan Hollins fighting for a rebound to give the Celtics a second chance, one where Kevin Garnett hits the game winner. The kind of game where Paul Pierce blocks Joe Johnson at the rim with the game on the line. Where a rare call has the Hawks taking the ball out of bounds late rather than shooting free throws. The kind of game where Horford has a chance to tie but somehow the free throw just misses its mark and Boston holds on.
Boston did hold on and win, 83-80 over the Hawks to win the series 4-2 and advance to face the Philadelphia 76ers in the next round. There’s a fast turnaround — Game 1 is Saturday at the Garden.
There was a theme to this game — whenever a team stopped settling for jump shots and got the ball inside they would go on a run. Neither side shot well — Boston shot 41.9 percent, the Hawks 41 percent.
Kevin Garnett was the key for Boston, finishing with 28 points on just 19 shots, getting to the line 10 times. He pushed inside — including on the game winner with 30 seconds left, a 10-foot fadeaway over Josh Smith — but he also knocked down his jumpers.
Paul Pierce pitched in 18 points on 11 shots, but he had the biggest defensive play of the night, blocking a Joe Johnson drive and layup when the Celtics were up just one with 10 seconds left.
Boston had led most of the second and third quarter and early in the fourth had pulled away to a 74-65 lead. But give the Hawks credit, they would not just roll over on the road. They tightened their defense way up and went on a 10-2 run to make this a close game down the stretch.
As he was in Game 5, Al Horford played well with 15 points and 9 rebounds. If he had been healthy all season, this would have been a different series, very likely with a different outcome.
But Boston, with their veterans and their history — and their defense — gutted out another win. They move on to face a Sixers team that they have to think they can beat, not easily but beat if you continue to defend and get one guy an night to just step up big. And if you get by them…
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Boston and the ghosts that seem to inhabit the Garden and get them wins in games just like this deserve a night to enjoy it. They earned it.