Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 5/9/12

ATLANTA -- Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford and Joe Johnson have been together since 2008 through good and bad times. The Atlanta Hawks stalwarts have been lampooned nationally and questioned by local media and fans, a lot of whom think it's time for the team's core to be broken up.

However, with an 87-86 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, the group will live to fight for at least another game.

The Hawks sliced the Celtics' lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round playoff series. Game 6 will be played Thursday in Boston. Game 7, if necessary, would be back in Atlanta on Saturday.

Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo had a chance to close out the Hawks in the final seconds when he stole the ball from Smith on an inbounds play, but Rondo was unable to get off a shot.

"I tried to make a play, and I think I cornered myself on the baseline. Give Al credit, I just didn't come up with the shot," Rondo said.

Smith missed eight of his first nine shots, but his deflection of Rondo's pass to Kevin Garnett preserved the Hawks' victory.

"Coach (Larry Drew) set up a play for me to get the ball, but it didn't happen," Johnson said of the game-ending play. "Once the steal happened, I was just concerned with finding my man. But then Josh made a great defensive play at the end to seal it"

Boston coach Doc Rivers said, "We were going to foul them at the end, but our guys decided to get the steal first. ... I was hoping (Rondo) would attack the basket, but lost control of the ball and that blew up any chance that we had.

"We didn't capitalize on the situation. When you put yourself in a hole, you have to make a run, and we did, but then they made one back at us. Give them credit."

Horford, the Hawks center playing only his second game back from a torn pectoral muscle suffered in the first month of the regular season, scored a game-high 19 points and added 11 rebounds. Smith had 13 points and 16 boards.

"I was tired a little bit, but right now I feel fine," Horford said after playing 41 minutes. "Maybe it's adrenaline from the game and tomorrow it will be a different story, but right now I'm fine. At the end of the third quarter, I asked coach if he could sit me down for four or five minutes so I can come back and leave it all out there, but I had to go back in earlier than that."

Rivers said, "Al Horford was terrific tonight. Both he and Williams made a big difference tonight. Once they started to hit a few, they got their confidence up. This was the team they started the season with. They now have it, so now we have to deal with it."

Paul Pierce and Garnett had 16 points apiece for Boston, while Rondo had 13 points and 12 assists.

Each team had five players score in double digits.

Atlanta took a 12-point lead in the third quarter, paced by nine points from Horford. But just as it appeared the Hawks would cruise to a win, Rondo scored six points and dished out four assists to keep the Celtics within two.

"I was trying to pick up my energy level starting with defense," Rondo said. "In that particular time, I had a couple steals, hit a couple of shots, anything to give my team a little energy."

Boston started the first quarter on an 11-3 run, punctuated by a driving layup by Brandon Bass. The Celtics took advantage of a slow start from nearly every Hawk not named Jeff Teague. Atlanta was able to get back into game with five points in the first from its point guard.

Teague nearly singlehandedly kept the Hawks close until a sequence that included a missed dunk attempt by Josh Smith, followed by a block by Boston's Greg Stiemsma, which resulted in a basket by Ray Allen to give the Celtics a four-point swing.

Atlanta shot 29 percent in the first quarter, but the second was different. The Hawks found their 3-point range which had eluding them the entire series. Williams hit two critical 3-pointers, and Johnson followed with one to bring the Hawks into a 37-37 tie. Teague then come through with a 3-pointer to give the Hawks their first lead since Game 3 in Boston.

However, Rondo hit a 3-pointer to close the half at 40-40, the same way Garnett hit a big basket to close the first quarter and quiet a Hawks run. This would be a recurring theme in a back-and-forth game that went down to the final buzzer.

In a fourth quarter that would feature Horford hitting four of his last five shots, Rondo led the Celtics with six assists. Boston got a 3-pointer from Pierce to make the score 87-86, but the Celtics couldn't get the final basket.

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