Finishing off the Hawks won't be easy for Celts

Finishing off the Hawks won't be easy for Celts
May 7, 2012, 3:50 pm
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BOSTON The Boston-Atlanta playoff series is over.

The Hawks are done.

Doc Rivers understands how easily this mindset can be adopted -- at least outside of his locker room -- following the Boston Celtics' 101-79 romp of the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday in a game that gave the C's a 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven series.

But as slim as Atlanta's chances are at a comeback in the series, closing out the Hawks -- at home or at Atlanta's Philips Arena on Tuesday -- won't be easy for the Celtics.

"You better believe that we're coming," said Hawks center Al Horford, who made his playoff debut this year on Sunday in scoring 12 points to go with five rebounds. "We're bringing it at home. We're looking forward to it."

Only eight teams in NBA history have led a playoff series three games to one, and failed to move on to the next round. The last team to do so was Phoenix, which rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in 2006.

One of those eight teams was coached by Rivers, whose Orlando Magic squad in 2003 -- led by current Atlanta forward Tracy McGrady -- had a 3-1 series lead over Detroit and wound up losing the final three games and the series.

So as much as the Celtics relish the opportunity to close out the Hawks on Tuesday, Rivers and his players speak more about the need to have a great sense of urgency on the C's part heading into Game 5 which is expected to be the toughest game of the series thus far.

"You don't want to give a team any confidence," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce. "You got to go down to Atlanta with the right mindset. You don't want to bring it back to Boston because anything could happen. The NBA is a weird league; one game could give a team confidence."

Said Rivers: "You've got to take them one at a time."

Rivers saw first-hand how going away from that, can blow up in your face.

After that 2003 Orlando team beat Detroit in Game 4 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead, McGrady started talking about what it would be like playing in the second round shortly after the Game 4 victory.

Word quickly got back to the Pistons, who used it as a rallying cry of sorts that was part of their surge towards advancing in that series and ultimately moving on to the Eastern Conference finals.

These Boston Celtics are a veteran, battle-tested group that understands as well as anybody, the power of words and how they can quickly be transformed into motivation.

"We definitely want to try and finish the series out in Atlanta," said C's guard Rajon Rondo. "We don't want to come back here and play because obviously we need our rest. It's gonna be a good fight. But at the end of the day we want to try and get a win."

And while Rondo is always confident that the C's can emerge victorious, he by no means is taking a Boston win in Game 5 as a given.

"They are NBA players so there is a chance we could lose Game 5," Rondo admitted. "But it's not in our mind. We're gonna go down there and try to take care of business. If we do play the right way like we did (in Game 4), I think we have a great chance of winning the game."

Approaching Game 5 as nothing more than another chance to win, has to be the Celtics' approach going in.

As Rivers can attest, anything deviating from that has the potential for a horrific slump of the likes that this proud franchise has never experienced.

"Go out and play your best, and if you win it, then you move on," Rivers said. "But never look at the finish line; never even talk about the finish line. You talk about the next game, and just playing well."