Celtics take early lead and never look back, beat Hawks, 101-79

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Celtics take early lead and never look back, beat Hawks, 101-79

BOSTON The return of Josh Smith (knee) and Al Horford (pectoral) was supposed to provide a jolt of energy to the Atlanta Hawks.

The Boston Celtics will see that energy, and raise it to a level that was too much - way too much - for the Atlanta Hawks to handle.

The result, a 101-79 Celtics win, was the kind of beating the Celtics have rarely administered this season.

Paul Pierce, who led all scorers with 24 points, had to leave in the second quarter with a left knee injury. He was able to return in the third quarter and picked up where he left off with a number of big shots.

The actual game wasn't nearly as close as the final score.

Boston surged ahead in the first quarter and led, 32-19.

Not satisfied, the C's continued to pour on the points in the second to take a commanding 63-41 lead at the half or so we thought.

At the half, officials reviewed a long jumper by Ray Allen that at the time was ruled a 2-pointer.

Upon further review, it was determined it was a 3-pointer.

Yeah, it was that kind of night for the Hawks who now trail the C's 3-1 in their best-of-seven series. Boston can wrap up the series and move on to the next round with a victory in Atlanta on Tuesday.

The Celtics had a pretty good idea that Josh Smith was going to play in Game 4 after missing Game 3 with a knee injury.

On Saturday, Smith told CSNNE.com that he had every intention of being on the floor Sunday night with his teammates.

"I understand the importance of this game," Smith told CSNNE.com. "You can't play injured, but you can play a little hurt."

Despite clearly not being himself, Smith still had 15 points and a game-high 13 rebound in 32 minutes.

That was essentially what the Hawks were getting from Al Horford, who had missed all but 11 games this season. He finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Maybe the biggest surprise of the night was Joe Johnson, who had nine points on 4-for-8 shooting and never seemed to be into it.

The C's had some uncertainty in their starting lineup prior to the game with a decision on Avery Bradley (shoulder) playing not being made until about an hour or so before tip-off.

Bradley had six points which included five straight in the first quarter that helped the C's open the seams to what was the first blowout by either team in this series.

With 8:48 to play, the C's were up 96-67 - and that wasn't even their biggest lead of the game.

All that was missing was Gino on the Jumbotron, and Kevin Garnett doing some kind of shimmy.

But all was not well for the Celtics on the health front.

LeBron James hasn't always been dominant the game after a bad performance

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LeBron James hasn't always been dominant the game after a bad performance

Conventional wisdom has been spreading almost from the moment Avery Bradley's shot (finally) dropped through the cylinder in the closing seconds Sunday night, and it goes something like this:

LeBron James was so bad in Game 3 that, determined to exact revenge, he's going to come out like a force of nature and obliterate the Celtics in Game 4.

Makes sense. But, you know, LeBron has had other playoff games in which he's scored fewer than 12 points. He's always been good the next time out -- certainly better than >12 points -- but nothing sweeping or historic:

And amazingly enough, his teams lost two of those three games.

So if you were thinking the Celtics' Game 3 triumph virtually guaranteed a Cavalier victory and a dominant LeBron James performance in Game 4 . . . well, maybe not.

Amir Johnson a game-time decision for Game 4 with shoulder injury

Amir Johnson a game-time decision for Game 4 with shoulder injury


CLEVELAND – Brad Stevens won’t know until shortly before tip-off tonight if he will have to make another lineup change.
 
Amir Johnson, whose right shoulder was injured in the Celtics' 111-108 Game 3 win on Sunday, is questionable for tonight’s Game 4.
 
“It’s better for sure,” Johnson told CSN this morning. “Yesterday, it was hard to lift. Today, I can move it all around. In shoot-around, I’m going to get a couple shots, see how it feels and go from there.
 
He added, “it’s definitely going to be a game-time decision. I’m going to go and shoot around, just to get a feel. And then for the game-time, I’ll shoot around some more, see how it feels and take it from there.”
 
Healthy or not, Johnson being with the starting group is far from a given.
 
The 6-foot-9 veteran has consistently been the first starter subbed out and usually winds up playing the fewest minutes.
 
In Game 3, two of his backups – Kelly Olynyk (15 points) and Jonas Jerebko (10 points) – shined brightly.
 
Here are some other highlights from the Celtics’ morning shoot-around.
 
THOMAS UPDATE: Isaiah Thomas met with a hip specialist on Monday, according to Stevens. “Still collecting information,” said Stevens, adding, “We’ll wait and see or we’ll discuss second, and third, and fourth, and fifth opinions.”

Thomas injured his right hip March 15 and later re-aggravated it in the first half of the Game 2 loss Friday. Less than 24 hours later, he was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.
 
He was replaced by Marcus Smart in the starting lineup and Smart responded with a career-high 27 points in Game 3, which included seven made 3’s which is a career-best mark as well.
 
BOUNCE-BACK CELTICS: The Celtics winning Game 3 sent shockwaves throughout the league, especially coming on the heels of a 44-point home court drubbing at the hands of the Cavs. “If you’re in sports long enough you’re going to have clunkers,” Stevens said. “You’re going to have games that don’t go your way. And our guys took seriously the idea of responding and just playing the next possession as well as they could.”
 
ROZIER HOMECOMING: The second-year guard grew up in nearby Youngstown, Ohio (75 miles southeast of Cleveland), so you can expect he’ll have a decent contingent of fans at tonight's game.
 
While he’s all-in for the Celtics, the same is not true of his friends and some family members.
 
“My family does a good job of staying on my side except for my one younger cousin,” Rozier said. “She loves LeBron.”