Celtics 137, Hawks 132

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BOSTON (AP)—The Boston Celtics’ best offensive performance of the season was one of the worst ways to prepare for the playoffs.

The Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks 137-132 Wednesday behind Marcus Banks’ career-high 28 points, but know that defense wins playoff games.

“If you allow a team to be able to shoot and score like that, you’re not coming back in the second half,” Boston coach John Carroll said. “You’re going to get on a bus and go home.”

The Celtics trailed 71-67 at halftime but went ahead to stay with 8:08 left in the third quarter, 82-79, on Walter McCarty’s 3-pointer.

The 269 points tied the season-high in the NBA, set by Memphis and Atlanta in an overtime game March 29. The previous high for a regulation game was 262 by Washington and Atlanta on March 12.

The Celtics made the playoffs despite losing five of their last six games, posting a 36-46 record and clinching the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference when Philadelphia lost Sunday night.

Their first-round series starts Saturday at top-seeded Indiana, which went 61-21.

“Hopefully, this is a confidence builder for our team,” Banks said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit on the offensive and defensive ends, but I think we can get it together with a couple of hard practices.”

The Hawks missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season but won six of their last 11 games to finish at 28-54.

“We have been through a lot of ups and downs,” Stephen Jackson said. “There were a lot of trades, but everyone stayed professional and everyone played hard.”

The Hawks were led by Jackson and Chris Crawford with 24 points each and Jason Terry with 20.

Mark Blount scored 27 points and Ricky Davis had 24 for Boston, which played without Paul Pierce. He missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle but said he’ll be ready for the playoffs.

Boston’s previous high point total this season was 126 points at Seattle on Dec. 10. But the Hawks’ total was a season-high against the Celtics, who gave up 127 at Sacramento on Dec. 17.

“We can’t come out like we did tonight defensively” in the playoffs, Jiri Welsch said. “Defensively, it was good enough to win today but not against Indiana.”

Atlanta just missed its season highs of 138 points scored and 136 points allowed.

“It wasn’t necessarily a defensive struggle,” Atlanta coach Terry Stotts said with a smile. “It was kind of like an old school game.”

Atlanta’s Bobby Sura had a disappointing finish, scoring 14 points in the first half but missing the rest of the game with a strained left hamstring.

On Monday night, Sura deliberately missed a shot and got the rebound, initially giving him his third straight triple-double. But the NBA disallowed the rebound, leaving Sura with 22 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds in a 129-107 win over New Jersey.

Terry’s 3-pointer cut Boston’s lead to 115-113 with 7:24 left in the game, but the Celtics scored the next eight points on two free throws by Banks and two 3-pointers by Davis, making it 123-113 with 6:10 remaining.

It was 135-124 before Atlanta cut the margin to 135-130 with 15 seconds left after 3-pointers by Terry and Jackson. Banks hit two free throws with 14 seconds to go before Crawford ended the scoring with a dunk.

“Our goal was to score 130 and get out and run,” Atlanta’s Travis Hansen said. “It was a fun game.”

Notes

Before the game, the Celtics signed center Ernest Brown and placed center Kendrick Perkins on the injured list. Neither is expected to be on the playoff roster. … The Celtics also signed guard Dana Barros, a 13-year NBA veteran who had been serving as their assistant coach and is expected to be on the playoff roster. He scored seven points. … Crawford averaged 18.8 pointsin his last 26 games.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Atlanta
J. Terry J. Terry
6-11,  20 Pts
5 Rebs, 11 Assists
 Boston
J. Welsch J. Welsch
6-15,  14 Pts
12 Rebs, 7 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists