Boston Celtics

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.

Photo of Celtics' 1963 White House visit recalls a simpler time

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Photo of Celtics' 1963 White House visit recalls a simpler time

As the controversy raged Saturday over President Donald Trump's tweet rescinding the White House invitation to Golden State Warriors' star Stephen Curry, a tweeted photo recalling a simpler time for sports team's presidential visits appeared. 

The nostalgic Twitter account @the_60s_at_50 posted a photo from the Celtics' visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and its principal occupant, John F. Kennedy, on Jan. 31, 1963. JFK had invited his hometown NBA team into the Oval Office for what seemed to be a spur-of-the-moment visit.

A newspaper account of the visit was also posted. The defending NBA champion Celtics were in the Washington area to play the Cincinnati Royals at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House that night and had been taking a tour of the White House when Kennedy invited them in. 

All the team members were there except for star center Bill Russell, who, of course, experienced incidents of racism in Boston that were well-documented. However, Russell's absence was blamed on him oversleeping. His teammates said they didn't know they would meet Kennedy on the tour.  

And yes, that's Celtics legend - and CSN's own - Tommy Heinsohn second from right. Coach Red Auerbach is next to the President on the left, Bob Cousy is next to Auerbach and John Havlicek is the first player in the second row on the left.