Crawford came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter. What's more, Crawford registered Atlanta's first 10 points of the final frame, almost single-handedly keeping the Celtics at arm's length.
“I’m getting more comfortable," said Crawford. "I know exactly what coach wants from me, and I know what my teammates expect from me. They make it very easy for me. It’s never just one guy that should get all the credit. It’s a team effort.
"It feels good, it shows we can play against the league’s elite. The Celtics have our respect. We respect them so much, but we don’t fear anybody. When we go out there, we know it’s kind of a bar to see where we’re at. They’re not fully healthy right now, but it’s a big win for us.”
Crawford also made an absolutely back-breaking four-point play, drilling a desperation 3-pointer as he tumbled out of bounds and drew a foul from Kendrick Perkins with 7:13 to go. The play put the Hawks on top by 11.
“I knew it was good as soon as I let it go," said Crawford. "I got fouled, so I didn’t really have a chance to see it. But after hearing the crowd’s reaction, I kind of figured it went in. It was a big momentum play for us.”
Smith logged a team-high 42 minutes, scoring 15 points with 11 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal, and a block. He might have hit the biggest shot of the night with a 21-foot jumper for an 83-78 advantage after the Celtics made it a one-possession game with 4:43 to go. But Smith pointed to the Hawks domination while outscoring the Celtics, 29-15, in the third quarter as the difference.
"We had to get it going offensively, and stayed on them defensively," said Smith. "Kendrick Perkins really hurt us in the first half, and we made a collective effort against him. That’s what we were able to do... Whenever we’re able to pass the ball, and share the basketball like we did tonight, it turns on our defensive effort. You saw it tonight against a very offensively skilled Boston team.
“It was real physical. But when you play against a marquee team like the Boston Celtics, the game is going to be more physical. We were able to match their physicality and were able to dish some of our physicality out as well.”
Coach Mike Woodson
After his team gave up 28 second-quarter points to the Celtics, Woodson liked how his team recommitted itself to defense in the third frame. Those defensive stops might have translated to points in the offensive end.
“Our defense picked up," said Woodson. "They made 3's in the first half -- they made two desperation 3's that gave them a six-point cushion, with the clock against their backs, which were big shots. And our defense was pretty solid. Neither team was getting away from each other, from an offensive standpoint, because both teams were defending.
"In the third quarter, our defense really picked up, and we made shots in the third quarter, and busted the lead to where it was comfortable for us to play. They made a run, and all great teams do. But we withstood it and countered with our run. I thought bringing Mike Bibby back, and the 3 that he made, was huge, coming down the home stretch. And then Jamal backed that up with a 3 as well.”