Saturday, April 4, 2009
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Gwinnett Daily Post
BOSTON - Paul Pierce scored 21 points and Rajon Rondo had 20 to lead Boston to a 104-92 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night, helping the Celtics maintain their hold on the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Kendrick Perkins had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Glen 'Big Baby' Davis had 19 points in place of Kevin Garnett, who missed his fourth straight game and his 17th of 21 because of a right knee strain. The Celtics have beaten the Hawks in seven straight regular-season games and nine in a row overall in Boston, including last year's seven-game, first-round playoff series.
Flip Murray scored 21 points, Mike Bibby had 20 and Josh Smith had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Atlanta.
Atlanta dropped to three games ahead of fifth-place Philadelphia in the conference standings, and the Hawks need home-court more than most: They've lost five straight away games to fall to 14-24 on the road and 29-9 at home.
Home court was valuable for the Celtics last year when they needed seven games to beat the Hawks and seven more to eliminate Cleveland - both times, the home team won every game in the series. But coach Doc Rivers said this year that it is more important to get Garnett and the other injured players healthy than to push for the top seed.
Fans cheered when the score of Cleveland's game against Orlando was put on the board and the Magic were winning by 28 points. But the Celtics have already conceded the No. 1 seed in the East to the Cavaliers, and they entered the night just a game ahead of the Magic for the second seed.
Boston's first three victories over Atlanta this season were by a total of 10 points. This one wasn't that close.
Atlanta erased a 52-48 halftime lead with the first two baskets of the third quarter, but Boston scored the next 10 points and never trailed.