Hawks 83, Celtics 74
ATLANTA – Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew always sets the goal of making the opponent call the first time out in a game.
The Hawks succeeded in that regard and their hot start was the catalyst to their 83-74 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game One of the first round of the playoffs on Sunday.
The Celtics did not go down without a fight. They got it within 10 points in the third period at the 7:12 mark with a dunk from Avery Bradley off a lob from Rajon Rondo to reduce the margin to 53-43.
The Hawks responded with a 9-2 run of their own which made the tally 62-45. But that wasn’t enough to kill off the Celtics, who got it as close as 71-66.
The Celtics’ Kevin Garnett, who only had two points in the first half, ended with 20, including 16 in the fourth quarter.
Rondo bumped into official Mark Davis, which led to his ejection and sealed the Hawks victory. And it was Atlanta’s Jeff Teague who came up with abig 3-pointer with 3:06 left to stop one Celtics run, and he followed with another clutch two-pointer to help ice the game two possessions later.
The Hawks were able to get a win even though leading scorer Joe Johnson went 3-for-15 and only scored 11 points.
Atlanta’s Josh Smith led all scorers with 22 points, and Teague had 15.
The Celtics came into Game 1 with all the confidence in the world, and why would anyone fault them? They would seem to have a good chance to reach the Eastern Conference Finals since Chicago’s Derrick Rose will be out for the rest of the playoffs with a knee injury.
Combine that with the Hawks’ history versus the Celtics, and Boston’s prospects looked favorable.
The last time the Hawks beat the Celtics in a playoff series was in the 1958 NBA Finals when the Hawks were in Saint Louis. So you can see why the Celtics came into Game 1 as favorites.
However, from the start of the game it was clear the 2012 Hawks were not going to make it easy for Boston.
The Hawks began on a 20-6 run before Doc Rivers could call a timeout. Other than Rondo scoring 10 early points, the Celtics as a whole looked lethargic, while the Hawks had plenty of pep.
Smith had nine points in the first quarter, and Johnson poured in a quick seven.
By the end of the first quarter, the Hawks were up 31-18 and Paul Pierce was on the bench with two early fouls. The Hawks continued to take advantage of the slow start by Pierce and the rest of the Celtics to finish the first half up 49-35.