Josh Smith was having all sorts of problems draining shots. Ditto for Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson. So Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew went to Plan "B" -- a healthy dose of Zaza Pachulia and Jamal Crawford against the Boston Celtics. Sprinkle in a solid game from Al Horford and the Hawks emerged victorious.
Pachulia posted 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Crawford netted 20 to power the Hawks to a 88-83 win over the Celtics on Friday night at Philips Arena.
Joe Johnson had 19 on a terrible 4-for-20 shooting night and Horford added 16 points and posted 15 boards for Atlanta, which defeated Boston for the first time this season.
The Hawks trailed by as many as 12 in the third quarter before Drew saw enough from Smith and Williams, who were not taking it to the hoop. In came Pachulia and the rest was history.
Atlanta whittled an 11 point deficit to six with a 7-2 run to end the third before opening the fourth with a 15-5 spurt. The Hawks lead 82-75 on a 3-pointer from Johnson before Boston cut it back to a one-possession game on a 3-pointer by Ray Allen with 2:39 left.
Boston had a chance to cut it to one with 36 seconds left, but Glen Robinson missed a pair of free throws and Garnett pushed Pachuila out of the way to get to the rebound and was whistled for the foul. Pachulia nailed both free throws to put Atlanta ahead 86-81.
Boston followed with a pair from the charity stripe before Horford putback Johnson's miss to seal the win.
Pachulia was a pest all night against the Celtics -- a team that he has historically amped up his game against. Zaza conquered the glass, ripping an offensive board away from Kevin Garnett and grabbing just about anything on the defensive glass to deny the C's much of any momentum.
It was reminiscent of those home playoff games against the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs four years ago, when the center from the Republic of Georgia got under the skin of Garnett and refused to stand down.
This one had the look and feel of a playoff game -- a packed house, intensity on both sides of the floor and even a couple of minor skirmishes in the first quarter.
Johnson and Paul Pierce got into it a bit with 3:34 left in the first quarter. Johnson fouled Pierce hard in the lane. The Boston forward took exception to the hit and shoved Johnson. Pierce was hit with a technical. Also getting into it were Jermaine O'Neal and Pachulia. They had a bit of a shoving match in the final seconds of the frame and were both given technicals.
Atlanta got the job done without much of any of a contribution from Smith, who was 3-for-10 from the field.
Pierce netted a game-high 25 and Rajon Rondo had 13 for Boston, which fell one-half game behind the Miami Heat in the race for the No. 2 spot in the East.