TORONTO - By rights, the Atlanta Hawks had no business even staying close in Friday nightís game with the Celtics.
The fact that they took the Celtics to overtime was an accomplishment itself.
Head coach Larry Drew went into the night with a big man rotation that began with Jason Collins and ended with Erick Dampier.
Josh Smith was on the bench in a suit. Marvin Williams started in his place.
On the other bench, the Celtics got starting point guard Rajon Rondo back from a one-game suspension and perhaps just as importantly welcomed Ray Allen back into action after an 11-game absence as he dealt with some bone spur issues in his ankle.
On the surface it was a mismatch.
It certainly didnít turn out that way.
The Celtics played too much like a team that knew it had a huge advantage and the Hawks played desperate.
The combination made for an entertaining, if somewhat sloppy game.
Even when it looked like the Celtics might finally assert themselves in the fourth quarter pulling out to an 11-point lead, the Hawks reeled them back in with a 15-4 run capped by a Joe Johnson three-pointer that tied the game at 80.
The Celtics saved face in the overtime thanks in large part to Rondo who took control leading Boston to a 90-84 win and a 2-1 lead in the series.
Rondo finished the night with 17 points, 12 assists and 14 rebounds.
SLIPPING AWAY FOR BULLS
Already without Derrick Rose, the Bulls dropped Game 3 in Philadelphia and may have lost starting centre Joakim Noah for a period of time.
Noah rolled his ankle and tried to come back but the ankle would not support him.
Whether this is an injury that will keep Noah out for a while ó and anyone who has seen it run at slow speed will not be at all surprised if it does ó will be determined today. Safe to say Chicagoans have a right to be concerned about their team even getting out of the first round at this rate.
Without Noah down the stretch, the Bulls wilted and dropped this one 79-74 to fall behind the series, 2-1.
ALL HAIL RAY
Watching Allen get a shot off is one of the simple pleasures in the NBA.
Itís lightning fast, itís smooth and more often than not itís on target. So it really wasnít that much a surprise to hear the Garden faithful erupt when he checked into the game with 7:20 gone in the first quarter.
Allen has been a spectator for the past 11 Celtics games, the final nine of the regular season and the first two of the playoffs.
The fact that Allen is also one of the hardest working veterans in the league made the reception all the more expected. Fans love a superstar.
They cherish a hard-working one.
Allen, despite the long layoff hit shots like he normally does making good on 6-of-11 attempts for a 12-point night in his return.
HAWKS SNAKE BIT
Tracy McGrady had done a pretty good job of turning back the clock with 10 points in the quarter and showing some of the scoring forward he was in Houston, but it didnít last the quarter.
McGrady came down on the heel of the Celticsí Rondo and crumpled to the floor like he had torn something.
Already down Smith and with two bigs already in foul trouble, Drew had to be wondering when the speakers suspended above the Atlanta bench were going to fall and claim another one of his players.
Jeff Van Gundy, who was doing the game for ESPN (picked up by Sportsnet in Canada) joked that Drew might have to look to some of his coaching staff and get them to suit up just to finish.
He was joking, but with the bodies falling like they were, you had to believe it crossed Drewís mind as well.
Turns out McGrady just had a sprained ankle and a little ice and lot of tape had him back in the mix for the second half.
Watching Kevin Garnett and Ivan Johnson battle has to feel like payback for all the smaller forwards Garnett has abused in the past.
Johnson canít match Garnettís length but he is every bit as ornery and just as mean. Johnson, whose temper kept him from an earlier opportunity in the league, controls his now but heís the perfect match for Garnett ... Say what you want about Rondoís temper and his unwillingness to see the damage it does to his team. When he is on the floor, as he was Friday after sitting out a one-game suspension for bumping an official, Rondo is a pleasure to watch and very aware of everything on the floor. When Erick Dampier picked up his second foul (after Jason Collins already had three) the Hawks had no choice but to go small with Marvin Williams at centre and McGrady at power forward, Rondoís first time down the floor he floated a pass into Garnett at the rim for the easy bucket.
The size mismatch had only just come in but Rondo picked it up right away and immediately took advantage. He may not be big on apologies, but he can read a situation with the best of them. Oh, and as usual, Rondo put up numbers with a triple-double in the books even before the overtime.
He took a 12-point, 12 assist, 12-rebound effort into the extra frame.