Sam Cassell and Boston's backups outplayed Atlanta's starters in the fourth quarter, and the Celtics prevented the Hawks from clinching their first playoff berth since 1999 with a 99-89 victory tonight. Atlanta would have ended the NBA's longest playoff drought with a victory, because Indiana lost to Charlotte earlier today. The Hawks remained two games ahead of the Pacers with two to play.
The Hawks led 84-78 after two 3-pointers by Mike Bibby, but Cassell scored 20 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, as the Celtics outscored the Hawks 21-5 down the stretch. Kevin Garnett sat out the fourth quarter but led Boston with 24 points. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen each had 14. Joe Johnson scored 21 and Josh Smith and Al Horford each had 17 for Atlanta.