With little regard for home court advantage the Boston Celtics began the “Big 3′s” final playoff run in Atlanta vs. the Hawks.
Like a little brother tired of being bullied the Atlanta Hawks punched the Celtics in the eye to start the game and ran for the hills on their way to a 83-74 victory.
Josh Smith played like a man amongst boys tallying 22 points along with 18 rebounds. Jeff Teague scored 15 points including 5 crucial points to stem the tide for Atlanta in the 4th quarter. Kirk Hinrich added 12 points all on 3 pointers with each coming in timely dagger fashion.
Atlanta started the game on a 20-6 run and finished the first quarter with a 31-18 lead. Rajon Rondo scored 10 of his team high 20 points to keep the Celtics within shouting distance. Rondo also added 11 assists and 4 rebounds. (more on Rondo later)
The Hawks began the 2nd quarter with four bench players and Jason Collins. The Celtics thanked the Hawks for that bit of southern hospitality and cut the lead to 9. Coach Larry Drew called a timeout to reinsert Smith, Teague, and Joe Johnson effectively ending the Hawks defensive kindness. The first half concluded with Atlanta taking a 49-35 lead into the half.
Kevin Garnett was dysmal in the first half finishing just 1-9 from the floor. He looked like power forward KG instead of center KG who the Celtics have grown accustomed to since the All-Star break. Garnett would recover to finish with 20 points and 11 rebounds keying a costly second half run by the Celtics.
Paul Pierce shot just 5-19 on his to 12 points while Avery Bradley scored 10 on 4-12 from the field.
Despite the offensive struggles, Boston cut a one time 19 point deficit to just 4 in the final period. Unfortuantely for the Celtics the Hawks responded to every attempted run. A Smith jumper over Garnett, a Teague 3, and a Teague floater essentially closed the game out for Atlanta. Those shots and multiple bad calls by referee Mark Davis sealed the victory.
Davis missed a call where Smith clearly knocked the ball out of bounds on one end of the floor. Seconds later Brandon Bass and Smith engaged in a scrum for the ball on the floor causing Davis to call a foul on Bass instead of the customary jump-ball you would see in such an exchange. The combination of those two calls were too much for Rondo.
Rondo was infuriated by the calls and screamed at Davis receiving a tech. He then continued to bark unpleasantries eventually tripping over Davis’s foot and bumped into his instant foe. The calls by Davis were awful but Rondo has to have better control and now he faces a suspension.
If there is anything positive to take from this game it is that Boston played terribly and still had a chance. Certainly a team with so much pride on their last run can’t continue such ineptness.
Ray Allen missed his 10th straight game and the Celtics bench scored a whopping 4 points. Allen is nearing a return and might be forced to play if Rondo is suspended. The bench while bad is not 4 points bad. Something has to give.
The loss should serve as a wake-up call for Boston. Many have been ceremoniously granting the Celtics a trip to the conference finals with news of Derrick Rose’s injury in Chicago. The “Big Bad Celtics”, as Rivers likes to taunt his team with, were nowhere to be found. The Atlanta Hawks were not scared nor were they impressed.
Boston will have to earn each win no matter how self entitled they feel. The rest of the league feels no nostalgia for the Celtics final run and hopefully the Celtics have now gotten the memo.
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com