BOSTON (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks seemed to have found the answer to their injury woes: a rejuvenated Tracy McGrady, who was putting together a playoff game reminiscent of his youth.
But then McGrady rolled his right ankle, crumpled to the ground and limped off the court. Although he returned in the second half, he did not make another basket and the Celtics held on to beat the depleted Hawks 90-84 in overtime Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"Tracy played well for us prior to him turning his ankle," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "We've been a team that has had adversity throughout the season, like everybody else, and it says a lot about your team when they can step up in the playoffs short-handed and still put themselves in a position to win the game. We certainly had our opportunity. We just fell short."
The Hawks were already without top centers Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia when forward Josh Smith went out late in Game 2 with a strained tendon in his left knee. Still, Atlanta seemed to cobble together an effective lineup, employing such little-used reserves as Erick Dampier and Jason Collins while giving more minutes to McGrady.
"I knew I would have to get some production from other players," Drew said. "I thought Erick Dampier came in and gave us some big minutes. He's a guy that hasn't been playing much at all for us. This is just a situation that I really needed another big body and he came in and gave us some really good minutes."
McGrady is a seven-time All-Star and two-time NBA scoring champion who averaged more than 20 points in eight straight seasons before injuries curtailed his production. He managed just 65 games total over two seasons before bouncing back with 72 last year and then 52 — all of them off the bench — in this lockout-shortened, 66-game season.
Before the series-opener against Boston, he hadn't appeared in the playoffs since 2008, scoring 40 for Houston in a first-round series against Utah. But he had 10 points and four rebounds in the second quarter alone before going up for a 3-pointer and coming down on Rajon Rondo's heel late in the half.
McGrady went to the floor, tried to get up then fell back down. He was helped off the court, but he returned for the second-half warmups and re-entered the game soon after.
"It's sore," he said after the game. "Rondo was closing out on me, he just happened to come right up under me and I landed on his foot. It was a little extended, but I'm going to get some treatment and I will be ready to go for Sunday."