Late run not enough as C's fall to Hawks


Late run not enough as C's fall to Hawks

ATLANTA The debate leading up to the Boston Celtics' and Atlanta Hawks' Game 1 matchup centered around the two R's: Rest and rhythm.

Boston chose rest down the stretch, while the Hawks opted more for rhythm.

Score one for rhythm as the Hawks were in a good flow all night in defeating the C's, 8374.

Boston spent the entire game playing catch-up, but were able to trim Atlanta's lead down to single digits in the fourth quarter after a jumper by Brandon Bass made it a 6759 game with more than nine minutes to play.

He would later hit another jumper that cut Atlanta's lead to 7368, only for Atlanta's Jeff Teague moments later to drill a 3-pointer that gave the Hawks a much-needed cushion of eight points with 3:05 to play.

The Celtics weren't out of it just yet, with Paul Pierce nailing a jumper that cut the Hawks' lead down to four with 1:01 to play, seemingly one defensive stop away from making things interesting.

And that's when all hell broke loose.

Atlanta's Joe Johnson lost control of the ball and a mad scramble ensued. Eventually, official Marc Davis called a personal foul on the Celtics with which all of them namely Rajon Rondo disagreed.

Rondo voiced his displeasure towards Marc Davis and then bumped into the back of Davis, which led to a double technical foul and an automatic ejection. It remains to be seen if the league will look to suspend Rondo for the contact he made with Davis.

Even before Rondo lost his composure, the Celtics were in trouble especially when it came to rebounding.

And the man giving them the biggest fits on the boards was Josh Smith. In addition to his 22 points and four assists, he also grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds.

The Hawks now lead the best-of-seven series 10 with Game 2 in Atlanta on Tuesday.

Atlanta began the game with a blistering 208 run and never looked back in handing the Big Three a rare Game 1 loss.

While much has been made of Boston's championship pedigree, they have a number of players experiencing their first real run through the playoffs this season . . . and for some, it certainly looked like it.

Avery Bradley, who has played with such poise and confidence for much of the season, appeared rattled early and often in the first half.

His on-the-ball pressure wasn't nearly as stifling as it has been this season, and he consistently came up short offensively by shooting just 3-for-10 in the first half.

Of Bradley's misses, none loomed as large as the wide-open 3-pointer, from the corner in front of the Celtics' bench, that was wide left as it grazed the rim.

After falling behind 4627, the C's scored eight of the game's next 10 points to come within 13 at 4835.

Bradley, who had just made a lay-up the previous possession, missed the wide open 3-pointer.

Moments later, Johnson was fouled and made one of two free throws, which would be the final point of the first half, which ended with the Celtics trailing 4935.

Keeping the Celtics in the game was Rondo, who, for a change, wasn't relying on his teammates to finish plays.

He was in scorer's mode, tallying 12 points at the half on 6-for-9 shooting. Rondo finished with 20 points, 11 assists and four steals.

The Celtics came out with a much more aggressive demeanor defensively, and slowly but surely cut into the Hawks lead.

A lob dunk by Bradley brought the Celtics within 5343 with 7:05 to play in the third.

The Celtics were not able to inch any closer in the third quarter, which ended with the Hawks ahead, 6553. And the run that carried them late into the fourth hit a wall with Rondo's ejection.

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

As expected, Marcus Smart will get the start for the Boston Celtics tonight against the Orlando Magic in place of the injured Isaiah Thomas. 

Thomas, who leads the Celtics (12-9) in scoring (26.0) and assists (6.2) this season, suffered a right groin injury in Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston on Monday.

Head coach Brad Stevens explained his decision a few minutes ago.

“He’s started a lot of games here in the past as a point guard,” Stevens told reporters. “He’s basically our sixth starter. It wasn’t one that I had to think a ton about.”

Starting Smart also allows second-year guard Terry Rozier to continue in his role coming off the bench. 

Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, Smart’s production has been consistent. 

In the five games he has started this season, he has averaged 10.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. 

His numbers off the bench are almost identical with Smart averaging 9.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists as a reserve. 

Stevens also mentioned that Amir Johnson would be back in the starting lineup in place of Jonas Jerebko. Earlier in the day, Stevens told reporters the decision to start Jerebko on Monday was strictly because of the matchup with Houston. 

“We have to be able to be flexible in doing that,” Stevens said. “Houston plays four guards. We didn’t feel like we could defend them unless we switch one through four. I thought he (Jerebko) did a pretty good job. This (Orlando) team is different than Houston other than both are super-hot.”

Orlando (10-12) has won four of its last five games in part because of its size, strength and versatility along the frontline which includes Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic who now comes off the bench. 

And while the Celtics have benefited heavily from the play of their guards, obviously that plan will be amended tonight with Thomas out. 

“He (Thomas) generates a lot in the open offense what we call flow, spread offense,” Stevens said. “So some of those type of things you may not generate at the same rate. But certainly there are other ways that we’ll look to play when he’s not in the game normally, or when we’re trying to play through bigs in the post. You have different ways to play within all your schemes. Hopefully we can play to each other’s strengths and go from there.”