BOSTON -- Rajon Rondo, suspended from Game 2, took over Game 3 Friday night, leading the Celtics to a 90-84 overtime victory over the shorthanded Hawks and into a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
Game 4 is Sunday night in Boston.
The Hawks, playing without leading scorer and rebounder Josh Smith (knee) and two centers, were hanging in and trailed 65-64 with 9:42 left in regulation. Rondo was then personally responsible for an 11-1 run over a 2:22 span to break it open.
But down by 11, the Hawks roared back and used an 8-0 run at the end of regulation to force OT. Rondo then hit the first baskets of overtime, putting his team ahead for good with 3:50 left.
Rondo finished with his sixth playoff triple-double, scoring 17 points (despite shooting 7-for-22 from the floor) and adding 14 rebounds and 12 assists (his 26th straight double-figure assist game). Paul Pierce, just 3-for-12 from the floor, went 14-for-14 from the foul line and had 21 points, while Kevin Garnett posted 18 points and 12 rebounds. His slam-dunk of a Rondo miss iced the game with 28.1 seconds left.
The Celtics survived a day after Rondo, talking about his Game 2 absence, said, "If it'd been a different result, it would have been difficult. But, since we won, I felt like we won the series already."
Ray Allen returned from an ankle injury and logged 38 minutes, scoring 13 points.
A valiant Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 29 points (11-for-28 from the floor) while Jeff Teague had 23 points and six assists. Tracy McGrady had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Allen received a standing ovation when he entered the game for the first time with 4:40 left in the first quarter. Just 33 seconds later, he hit his first shot.
With three big men missing, Erick Dampier, 36 and once a viable big man in the league, was needed for the first time in the series after playing 83 minutes over 15 regular season games. His slam dunk with 5:40 left in the first quarter equaled his regular season points output. He also had four rebounds and a blocked shot in 7:49 in the first quarter.
McGrady, who has played well for the Hawks, had 10 points and six rebounds in the first half. But he turned his right foot after missing a shot in the final minute of the first half.
Notes: Earlier in the day, Smith, talking about his chances of playing, said, "I'm not going to rush myself into anything that I'm not comfortable with. If I'm able to go tonight I'll lace them up." It was the first game Smith, who averaged 18.8 points and 9.6 assists per game in the regular season and 19 and 15 in the first two playoff games, missed this season. ... Allen had missed the last 11 games with bone spurs in the ankle. "I think he just came to the conclusion that the pain's not going to go away," coach Doc Rivers said before the game. "He has to find a way to play with it. He has to find a way to be effective with it. I think he also probably accepts there may be a day or two that he can't play. And I think what everyone is trying to do is eliminate it, so when he's back to back. I don't think we are thinking in those terms anymore. We're just going to go game in and game out and see how he does." ... Bruins president Cam Neely received a standing ovation when introduced to the crowd on the video screen; after a "Bad To The Bone" video of Neely as a player inspired the crowd.