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.

2017 NBA title odds are out, Celtics rank second in the East

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2017 NBA title odds are out, Celtics rank second in the East

Teams are still fighting for the 2016 Larry O’Brien Trophy, but the 2017 NBA title opening odds have already been released by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. The Warriors unsurprisingly come in as heavy 3/2 favorites. The Cavaliers already punched their ticket for this year’s finals and are second, with 5/2 odds. Then there’s the Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers, as you’d expect rounding off the top five.

But then there’s the Celtics with 20/1 odds -- sixth-best in the NBA -- to raise Banner 18.

With eight draft picks and a chunk of cap space, the Celtics are in a position to capitalize on any opportunities that may come their way. There is a lot of uncertainty at this point in the NBA calendar, so Vegas must be hedging their bets on the Celtics making a leap towards contender status.

Celtics fans will also be happy to know the Nets have 500/1 odds to hoist the trophy next season, which ranks last of all teams. The Celtics have the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets in the 2017 draft, which could give them another swing at a superstar prospect.

For full draft profiles of players the Celtics could draft this year, click here.

Team Opening odds
Golden State Warriors 3/2
Cleveland Cavaliers 5/2
San Antonio Spurs 6/1
Oklahoma City Thunder 8/1
Los Angeles Clippers 16/1
Boston Celtics 20/1
Toronto Raptors 25/1
Miami Heat 25/1
Chicago Bulls 40/1
Atlanta Hawks 40/1
Minnesota Timberwolves 60/1
New Orleans Pelicans 60/1
Houston Rockets 60/1
Portland Trail Blazers 60/1
Memphis Grizzlies 80/1
Utah Jazz 80/1
Charlotte Hornets 80/1
Washington Wizards 100/1
Indiana Pacers 100/1
Dallas Mavericks 100/1
Milwaukee Bucks 100/1
Detroit Pistons 100/1
Los Angeles Lakers 100/1
New York Knicks 100/1
Sacramento Kings 100/1
Philadelphia 76ers 100/1
Orlando Magic 100/1
Denver Nuggets 100/1
Phoenix Suns 300/1
Brooklyn Nets 500/1

Warriors force Game 7 with 108-101 win over Thunder

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Warriors force Game 7 with 108-101 win over Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Klay Thompson made a playoff-record 11 3-pointers and scored 41 points, and the defending champion Golden State Warriors forced a seventh game in the Western Conference finals with a 108-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night.

Stephen Curry bounced back from a slow start to finish with 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

The Warriors, who set the league's regular-season record with 73 wins, will host Game 7 on Monday. The winner will play Cleveland in the NBA Finals.

Oklahoma City dominated Games 3 and 4 at home, but the Warriors made 21 of 44 3-pointers on Saturday, while Oklahoma City was 3 of 23.

Kevin Durant scored 29 points and Russell Westbrook added 28 for the Thunder. But Durant made just 10 of 31 shots and Westbrook was 10 of 27.

Trying to become the 10th team to overcome a 3-1 deficit, the Warriors trailed much of the game and trailed by eight going to the fourth quarter.

Thompson kept them in it with four 3-pointers in just over seven minutes to start the period. Curry then hit two 3s, the second of which tied the game at 99 with 2:47 to play.

Thompson's 3 with 1:35 to play put the Warriors up 104-101.

The Thunder, who blew a number of fourth-quarter leads during the regular season, fell apart in the final minutes after Golden State had finally gone ahead for good.

Westbrook lost control of the ball, and after Thompson missed a 3, Westbrook turned the ball over again. Curry's layup with 14.3 seconds to play put the Warriors up by five, the Thunder turned it over again, and the Warriors were in the clear.

The Thunder led 23-20 after one quarter, then seized momentum early in the second. Steven Adams' powerful one-handed dunk on Draymond Green drew a roar from the crowd and gave Oklahoma City a 37-28 lead. Green, who had hit Adams in the groin area twice during the series, was a constant target for the vocal Thunder fans.

Thompson opened the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Warriors a 54-53 edge, but the Thunder closed the quarter strong and led 83-75 heading into the fourth.