BOSTON - From the comfort of his own house two years ago, Atlanta Hawks sixth man and guard Jamal Crawford watched the memorable seven-game first round playoff series between the Hawks and the Boston Celtics.
In 2008, Crawford wasn't yet a member of Atlanta; instead he was a part of the perennially pathetic New York Knicks. But watching on television, he could still see the potential in the Hawks, as they took the top-seeded and eventual NBA champion Celtics to seven games despite being heavy underdogs.
Now in his first year with the Hawks, Crawford is a key reason that Atlanta has been elevated to one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference and a thorn in the Celtics side. Coming into last night's matchup with Boston at the TD Garden, the Hawks had won both of the previous contests with the Celtics this season.
Last night's game had the feel of one of those playoff games, with the sellout crowd of 18,624 on their feet almost all night. In the end, the visitors made it three in a row with a 102-96 victory.
Atlanta (24-13) erased a 55-46 halftime deficit with a furious third quarter. Then the Hawks made all the plays in the fourth quarter, behind a monster 36-point night from all-star guard Joe Johnson and 17 big points off the bench from Crawford.
The growing rivalry was obvious between the two squads. Celtics (26-10) head coach Doc Rivers even got tossed when he got whistled for two technical fouls in the third quarter after arguing a flagrant foul that was called on Glen Davis. Assistant coach Armond Hill was called for another T, and the Hawks used those Celtics miscues to get back in the game.
"The Celtics get the best game out of everybody they play," said Crawford, who came into last night second on the Hawks in scoring at 16.9 points per game. "They are one of the best teams in the NBA and it's a good measuring stick. But I think we matchup pretty well with those guys."