By Jon Evans
“Man, there’s a lot of people in here tonight,” a stunned Big Baby said as he walked from the shower room to the players-only trainers room. Indeed, the lure of the playoffs was strong enough to attract dozens of reporters to the Celtics lockerroom before their game 1 matchup with Atlanta. If anyone needed a further reminder that these are the playoffs, a “Lets-Go-Celtics” chant coming from the Garden floor, could be heard all the way back at Doc’s pregame press conference.
The extensive pre-game pyrotechnics display leaves the court in a thick fog. Unfazed by the haze, Pierce connects twice from behind the arc to give the Celtics an early 8-2 lead and keep the Garden crowd on their feet.
Josh Smith has the unenviable job of guarding KG in the paint. Ahead of the Joe Johnson double team, KG connects on a turnaround to extend the lead to 11-2.
Locked in, Pierce connects on another 3 from the left wing.
Per usual, Rondo has come out of the gate aggressive. Swooping in for putbacks, pulling up for jumpers and draining floaters, Double-R shows no signs of nervousness in his playoff debut. Eight minutes in, Rondo has forced ATL to call a timeout, with his line of 6 points, 4 assists and 3 boards.
For the Hawks, Joe Johnson posts up Ray and connects for two from close, 17-8 Celtics.
Same thing next time downcourt for the Hawks. The Celtics double-team leaves Horford open for the baseline jumper, 19-10 Celtics.
True to form, Josh Smith flaunts his jaw-dropping athleticism on an impressive block of what would’ve otherwise been an easy Powe slam. The rejection ignites his own break and layup on the other end. Minutes later, he’s swatted two more Celtics attempts and sparked another break that led to a Childress lay-in to pull within 5.
Rondo fouled – hits fadeway from behind the basket, but the refs wouldn’t give him continuation. The two free throws put the Celtics up 8 at the end of the first.
Against the Celtics second unit Hawks cut the lead to two courtesy of a Marvin Williams baseline jumper. Two minutes in, KG checks back in and immediately hits a turnaround from the right baseline, 29-25.
Joe Johnson rebounds the KG miss and takes it coast to cost. Misses. That’s roughly the fourth one-man fast break for the hawks this game. An outlet pass every now and then would probably go a long way.
Horford, unaffected by the bright lights of the postseason, drains a swooping skyhook over KG that momentarily silences the crowd. On the next possession, a Horford putback brings the Hawks within four.
KG doubled, finds Cassell for three, 38-31. The 25-footer was the beginning of a personal 7-0 run by Cassell that extended the C’s lead to 11.
Marvin Williams drive – fouled by KG who picks up his 3rd with 4 left in the first half.
Horford connects on tough spin move from right bank. The old-fashioned three-point play gives him a team-high 11 points and cuts the Hawks deficit to single digits.
Joe Johnson left open for three from left wing. Wet, 44-38 with a little over 2 left.
Posey responds with a three of his own, 47-38.
Rondo’s up and under move is emphatically swatted away by Marvin Williams. Probably the one thing he’s done tonight that Chris Paul definitely couldn’t have done better.
Perkins and Garnett, with 3 fouls apiece open the half on the floor for the Celtics.
Bibby, with all the time in the world, misses a three from the left wing. The playoff vet is shooting 1-7 so far, missing all 3 of his attempts from deep. Those big shots in Sacramento surely seem like they happened a long time ago.
Horford is a beast. Rebounds his own miss and muscles in a putback over KG and Perkins.
For the C’s, the third quarter belonged to Ray Allen who scored 10 straight courtesy of two threes, and a couple of pull up jumpers.
For the game, ATL’s shooting percentage is equal to their regular season win total. That’s very much not a good thing.
“Bibby you finally scored” says the astute 9-year old behind me. Bibby’s three from top of key would have been a lot more helpful 45 minutes earlier. With 5 minutes left in the 3rd, it merely cut the C’s lead to 16.
Rondo keeps rolling, hitting consecutive jumpers to keep the C’s lead at 16. Cassell, his biggest cheerleader, is the first off the bench to great him as the Hawks call timeout.
Next possession, shot clock winding down, Rondo drives baseline and connects on a floater in the paint. That’s 15-9-6 for the Double-R.
During the break, Lucky, the Celtics mascot, executes his most impressive dunk of the season. Jumping off the trampoline, he spins 360 degrees while going through his legs. Nice new one for the playoffs.
Another Hawks possession, another Bibby miss. With 9 minutes remaining, the Hawks are shooting 35% from the field. Much of the credit for that obviously goes to the vaunted Celtics defense. Though, as Lang mentioned in his running diary, the referees surely aren’t helping matters. I’m pretty sure that Perkins gave Smith the Shoryuken on a couple of his touches in the paint.
POWE!!!!!!!!! Driving right, Powe takes the feed from Pierce, soars, and emphatically slams one in over Bibby and Josh Smith. Fouled, Powe ended up lying on the parquet floor for teammates to help him up. First to arrive on the scene, KG forgoes the helping hand, preferring to stand over Powe, yell and punch him continuously in the chest. After the beatdown, Powe hits the +1, 91-68.
Horford connects again. The lone bright spot for Atlanta, the rookie has 20-10 in his playoff debut. On the other end of the spectrum, the Hawks starting backcourt combine to shoot 9 of 32 from the field.
3:26 – KG checks out. To a standing ovation and M-V-P chants. Finishes with 16-10 on 8/19 from the field.
2:56 – GINO on the jumbotron, Solomon Jones has jumped from my iPod onto the on the court for Atlanta. This one is over.
KG on his celebratory assault of Powe’s slam:
“Leon’s a grown ass man,” KG said. “The little hits I was hitting him with, he didn’t even feel that. Those are like high fives to him. They just so happened to be on his chest.”
KG on Rajon’s game:
“Rondo played well, he played with a lot of confidence. Before the series the three of us pulled him off to the side and gave him some advice. I thought he was very poised. I think the second half of the season he’s been a lot more of a general.”
Pierce on overconfidence:
“I remember the last time we were in the playoffs we won game 1 the same kind of way and we wound up losing the series. You have to understand that a team like Atlanta is going to make adjustments. You can’t look at game 1 as the indicator, a series can turnaround if you get overconfident and don’t do the necessary things you need to do to win four games.”