Celtics obliterate Hawks, head to Atlanta with 3-1 lead in series
The Atlanta Hawks were able to pick up a victory in the opening game of their NBA Playoffs series against the Boston Celtics, but after watching Sunday evening’s game, it seems as though that might be the only win they post this postseason. The Celtics were able to get their offense going from the get-go and, unsurprisingly, it got ugly for Hawks’ fans soon after as Boston cruised to an easy victory.
There was a lot of optimism pre-game for a competitive contest when it was announced that Al Horford would return from injury and Josh Smith was good to go after missing Game 3 due to injury, but that optimism was all for naught, unfortunately. Boston got out to an amazingly hot start and couldn’t miss a shot -- in spite of solid defense -- and kept their foot on the gas on the resof the way en route to a 101-79 victory and a 3-1 lead in the series.
The Celtics moved the ball well in the early-goings, the jump shots were falling and the writing was on the wall at the end of the first quarter. For reference, the Celtics made six field goals in the first quarter whereas Rajon Rondo dished seven of his 16 total assists in the same stanza ... and it didn’t get any prettier the rest of the way for Atlanta.
The Hawks’ offensive-isolation woes that have plagued them in previous games were there from the outset -- they dished just two more assists as a team than Rondo did himself -- and they were unable to get any sort of significant contributions from their best offensive players: Joe Johnson scored nine points on just eight shots, Jeff Teague had seven points and a less-than-stellar defensive effort while Smith returned from injury to score 15 points and grab 13 rebounds, though his six turnovers were a problem and he looked less mobile than he was prior to Game 2’s injury.
As far as Boston was concerned, really, it was just really good basketball. Rondo was able to penetrate and pass at ease after establishing that his jumper was falling early, opening up everyone else for good looks before the Hawks eventually just threw in the towel. It didn’t hurt, however, that Paul Pierce was amazing once again despite a knee injury that sent him to the locker room early in the first half. In less than 17 minutes of playing time, Pierce went 10-of-13 from the field, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, to score a game-high 24 points while Rondo added 20 himself amidst a solid scoring output that saw four other Celtics end up in double-figures.
The Hawks are headed home for Game 5 on Tuesday night, but after watching them have no answer for Boston on Sunday night, it’s hard to believe this series will last any longer than that contest. If it does, however, it’ll be because Johnson earns his max contract, Smith is healthy and Horford is able to play more minutes as he returns to health. Unfortunately for Atlanta, though, even those three players might not be enough if Boston’s offense is working as well as it did in Game 4.