Three quick technical fouls by the Boston coaching staff added up to a third straight victory for Atlanta over the Celtics.
Hours after scratching Rasheed Wallace from the lineup, Celtics coach Doc Rivers did a fair impersonation of the volatile forward by drawing two quick technicals and an early exit. A third "T" - on soft-spoken assistant Armond Hill - handed the Hawks a four-point play and helped whittle away a 10-point deficit in a 102-96 victory Monday night.
"I think it started with the technicals," said Jamal Crawford, who made the three free foul shots on his way to 17 points in the game. "We got some free throws and easy points. Seeing the ball go through the basket gives you confidence."
The Celtics have lost only 10 games all season and three have been to Atlanta, which had lost seven straight to Boston coming into the season.
"In order to get to where we're trying to go in this league, we've got to go through Orlando, Boston and Cleveland," said Joe Johnson, who scored 36 points, including seven straight to erase a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit. "We've been pretty successful against Boston this year, but we've just got to try to get some wins down the stretch."
Al Horford had nine points and 12 rebounds for Atlanta, and Crawford scored the last six of the game. Mike Bibby had just five points and two assists in 18 minutes for the Hawks.
Rajon Rondo had 26 points and seven assists for Boston.
Boston led by 14 points early in the second quarter and had a 67-57 lead with 6:16 left in the third when Glen "Big Baby" Davis was called for a flagrant foul for riding Marvin Williams away from the basket on a fast break. Rivers was irate, getting the second technical just a few seconds after the first when he didn't stop yelling at referee Bennett Salvatore.
Rivers was automatically ejected.
"That's always on me. I don't think I should ever get thrown out," said Rivers, who was last ejected on March 17 against Chicago. "I just hate getting techs. I've really worked this year at reeling myself in, because I thought we had to with the guys we have."
Davis denied fouling Williams on purpose.
"I'm a big guy and it felt like I didn't intentionally do it," he said. "When I was coming down, I tried to hold him from falling. But the refs made a decision and I can't get mad and upset."
Rivers was barely off the bench when Hill was also given a "T." Crawford made three free throws, then Williams hit one of two for the original foul to cut the deficit to six points.
Crawford hit a 3-pointer to make it 75-75 in the final minute of the third quarter - the first tie since the first quarter. Boston opened an 84-77 lead, but Johnson hit a 3-pointer followed by a fastbreak layup and, after the teams traded a few misses, made another basket to tie it with 7:26 left.
It was 96-96 after a three-point play by Davis with 2:33 left before Crawford was fouled attempting a 3-pointer; he hit two of three foul shots. Boston's Ray Allen missed a 3-pointer, then Crawford drove to the basket to make it 100-96. Allen missed a foul-line jumper before Crawford hit a long 2-pointer to clinch it.
Wallace, the most ejected player in the NBA since 1992, was a late scratch with a sore left forefoot. His loss was even more damaging because he had been starting for Kevin Garnett since he hyperextended his right knee on Dec. 28.
Rivers said Monday that Wallace could be out a week. Garnett could be back in 10 days.
"He got to start working out today for the first time," Rivers said. "Now it's just a conditioning thing. We want to make sure he gets strong and back in shape because he literally hasn't done anything. We figure 10 days to two weeks, that's what it'll take."
This program aired on January 12, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.