Rajon Rondo returned from his suspension and recorded his 20th career triple double and the seventh of his playoff career, leading the Celtics over the Hawks, 90-84, in overtime Friday night in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Rondo had the first two baskets of overtime and finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists. Paul Pierce made all 14 free throw attempts to finish with 21 while Kevin Garnett added 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Celtics, who take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Garnett's putback slam of a Rondo miss with 28.1 seconds left in overtime helped seal the win for Boston.
Ray Allen played 38 minutes in his first game since April 10, scoring 13 points. He made his return to game action when he came in for Avery Bradley with 4:40 left in the first. He had an immediate impact, hitting a 14-foot baseline jumper. He finished the first quarter 2-for-4 but the rest of the team was 4-for-17 as the Celtics could only manage 17 points on 28 percent shooting and trailed 19-17 after one. Allen finished with eight points in the first half in 15 minutes of action.
The Hawks stayed close in the first half thanks to their complete domination in the paint. They outscored the Celtics, 28-6, in the first half and built their lead up to six, 23-17. The Hawks got 10 points from Tracy McGrady off the bench but received a scare when he landed awkardly on his right foot following a 3-point attempt. He suffered a sprained right ankle and returned in the second half.
Despite getting pounded in the paint, the Celtics showed flashes of their classic defense, blocking seven shots, including three from Garnett and one from Bradley near the halftime buzzer as the Celtics took a 40-38 lead to the locker room. The Celtics built their lead up to six, 48-42, in the third quarter, and appeared to be on the verge of blowing the Hawks off the court. But Bradley missed a wide open dunk and was called for holding onto the rim while Rondo put it back for a layup. The field goal was waved off and the Hawks scored the next seven points to take the lead again.
Point guard Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson helped keep the Hawks close in the third, as the Celtics led by just two, 60-58 going into the fourth. Then with the Celtics leading by just three, Rondo passed an open look at a layup and instead sent the Garden crowd into pandemonium, firing a jump-pass to a wide up Paul Pierce, who drained a 3-pointer from the left baseline to push the Celtics' lead up to six, 70-64, with 8:49 left.
Rondo keyed an 11-1 run with a lay-up and a spectactular reverse as the Celtics built their lead to 11, 76-65, with 6:58 left. But the Celtics went ice cold and the Hawks went on a 15-4 run to tie the game. Joe Johnson drilled a 3-pointer with 1:25 left to tie the game, 80-80.
The Celtics got some bad injury news in the second half when Bradley aggravated his left shoulder injury and did not return. Game 4 is set for Sunday night at 7 at the Garden before the series shifts back to Atlanta for Game 5 on Tuesday night.