Pierce: 'It's only one game'

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Pierce: 'It's only one game'

ATLANTA When you look at all the predictions heading into this first-round series with the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks, most predicted the C's would emerge victorious and move on to the second round.

Within those predictions, not a sweep of the series can be found.

Which is why the Celtics are disappointed with their 83-74 loss, but far from dejected.

"We just can't panic," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "It's only one game. It's not the end of the world. Like I said, you gotta win four. They just held down their home court advantage in Game 1. We get another opportunity in Game 2 to steal the home court before we go back home."

The C's may have to get it done without Rajon Rondo who is awaiting word on whether he will be suspended for Game 2 after chest-bumping NBA official Marc Davis with 41 seconds to play in Boston's loss on Sunday.

Rondo said the contact he made with Davis was not intentional.

"As I was walking, I thought he stopped and my momentum carried me into him," Rondo said. "I think I even tripped on his foot. I didn't intentionally chest-bump him."

With or without Rondo, several other Celtics must step their game up if the C's are to leave Atlanta with this series tied up.

Pierce was especially off in Game 1, scoring just 12 points on 5-for-19 shooting.

"At this point, both teams know each other's plays. There's not going to be a ton of open looks," Pierce said. "I thought I really had good looks (on Sunday). For us to win, I have to be a better player; that's just what it is. I have to knock down the shots, I have to be aggressive on the offensive end. I have to do my job defensively on Joe Johnson. So I think i was a really big culprit of that (Sunday night loss)."

Pierce becoming a more efficient scorer would certainly help.

More than anything, the Celtics defense has to be more consistent.

In the days after the season end and prior to Game 1, C's head coach Doc Rivers talked about defensive consistency as being an area in need of improvement by his ball club.

"We have played great defense, but I think it's been spurt defense (recently)," Rivers said. "I want us to get back to being as solid defensively as we were (earlier)."

That will involve doing a better job against an Atlanta Hawks team that, like the Celtics, relies heavily on the jumpshot to be successful.

The Hawks led the NBA this season in shots taken between 20-24 feet away from the basket. The Celtics, meanwhile, were the league's best at defending those shots with teams shooting a league-low 30.5 percent against the C's from that distance.

While the final stats would indicate the Celtics did a decent job of defending those shots - the Hawks were 6-for-20 shooting within those shooting parameters - it doesn't tell the whole story.

In the first quarter, the Hawks were 3-for-6 on those shots, which factored heavily in the C's 13-point deficit after one quarter of play - a deficit that they were never able to recover from completely.

"The margin they built up in the first was just too great," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "We gave up 31 points to start the game on the road. It gave them confidence, and it's very hard to shut it off."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Sixers

WATCH: Celtics vs. Sixers

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Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

BOSTON – For most teams in the NBA, road games are a necessary evil. 
 
Not for the Celtics. At least, not lately.
 
The Green Team hits the road for its next three games, and that has been a good thing – a real good thing – lately. 
 
Boston (11-8) has won its last four road games, the kind of success that breeds a heightened level of confidence heading into this current trip which begins tonight at Philadelphia. 
 
And it only helps that they hit the road coming off a 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday. 
 
“We have to carry that momentum with us,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “You know how...anytime in this league, the momentum, you have to stay with it. We’ve been having success away from home. It was big for us to get this win (over the Kings) to start the road trip off.”
 
A big part of Friday’s victory was the play of Al Horford who finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six blocked shots. The points and rebounds for Horford were both season-highs.
 
Horford’s breakout performance came on the heels of a 121-114 loss to Detroit, a game in which Boston’s $113 million man (Horford) only took five shots.
 
“Coach [Brad Stevens] didn’t say anything about going to him just specifically,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We just found him and made the right play and when he got it he was very aggressive.” 
 
Part of Horford’s success was that he was in more of an attacking mentality. But he also benefited from a Kings defense that didn’t double-team him nearly as much as the Pistons did. 
 
“I got a lot of early looks in the game and like I said [following the Pistons loss] I think the Pistons did a good job defending and doubling and forcing me to pass the ball. [Friday night] I had more opportunities to be aggressive.”
 
Facing a Sixers team that ranks among the NBA’s worst in several defensive categories, Horford and the rest of his Celtics teammates should have ample opportunities to make plays offensively. 
 
And in doing so, they will be able to add on to what has been an already impressive stretch of play this season away from home.
 
“I think it will be good,” Horford said. “[Tonight] it’s a Philly team that plays hard and we just want to keep building on [Friday night’s win over Sacramento] and just try to be better.”