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.

Stevens’ first practice observation: ‘We’re going to be able to fly around’

Stevens’ first practice observation: ‘We’re going to be able to fly around’

WALTHAM, Mass. –  Before the Celtics fully stretched prior to their first practice of the season, coach Brad Stevens had his players go 5-on-5 in a not-live breakdown while going at about 30 percent full speed or similar to what they would do in a walk-through.

“If that was 30 percent, we’re going to be able to fly around,” said Stevens. “I think it was just a misjudging of what 30 percent is. They were flying early on in practice. We have to be able to fully rotate, we have to guard different positions, you gotta be able to read the game instinctively and obviously there’s an athletic component that allows you to do so effectively.”

Regardless, the Celtics are a team that will rely more on their athleticism in past seasons in order to be effective and live up to the lofty expectations so many have for them this season.

“We have a real good team, real athletic at a lot of spots,” Celtics forward Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “We definitely got a couple more high-flyers in the building this year.”

He’s speaking about Gerald Green, a former Slam Dunk champion, and Jaylen Brown, who is considered one of the more athletic players among this year’s rookie class.

And that athleticism was indeed on display in the early moments of the team’s first practice of the season.

But what makes the Celtics a team that could potentially be a major player in the East, is that the increased athleticism is now married to a team whose skill level is underrated.

Talent and athleticism is certainly a bonus for any team.

But the Celtics know the road to being among the game’s elite is long and winding, a journey that they are just beginning to embark on right now.

And while there are plenty of directions that Stevens can put a greater focus on in these early days, it doesn’t appear the Celtics' leader will go that route.

“We’ve got a lot being installed,” Stevens said. “We’ll keep the emphasis on being a blue-collar team and playing together.”

 

 

 

Brad Stevens podcast: 'Only goal around here is a championship'

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Brad Stevens podcast: 'Only goal around here is a championship'

Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine talk with Boston Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens at Celtics Media Day about raised expectations for the upcoming season, how Al Horford will fit, can Isaiah Thomas build off an All-Star season, and how high are his goals. 

Plus, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss whether or not some critiscism could come Stevens' way if the Celtics doesn't perform well in the playoffs.

MORE PODCAST Isaiah Thomas: ‘Just getting to the playoffs in Boston isn’t good enough’

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