The Celtics didn't disappoint in their first playoff game against the Atlanta Hawks. They led 29-21 after 1 and 49-40 at the half, but blew the game out in the third quarter to lead 73-55 at the end of 3. The final score was 104-81. In the first and second quarters, the Celtics allowed the Hawks to stay close, but they started the 3rd quarter with an 11-4 run and just kept going.
The Celtics had a balanced attack with 6 players in double figures and no player scoring 20 points. The Celtics bench had 36 points while the Hawks bench had only 22. Sam Cassell (10 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist), James Posey (8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals), Leon Powe (10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 blocks), and Tony Allen (5 points, 2 rebounds) all contributed for the Celtics off the bench.
Perk picked up 3 fouls in the first half and played only 6 minutes in the first half with only 1 point and 1 rebound for the half. He came out strong in the third, starting the quarter with a rebound and put back of a Ray Allen miss and he finished the game with 3 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks. KG also was in foul trouble in the first half with 3 but was able to go the rest of the game without picking up his 4th. He finished the game with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists. His intensity came out when Powe went in for a huge dunk and hit the floor. KG went over as though he was going to pick him up but instead pushed him back down and gave him several punches to the chest before finally helping him up.
Paul Pierce also was in foul trouble in the first half but was able to stay on the court in the second half finishing with 16 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. Ray Allen didn't shoot well in the first half, but came out in the third hitting everything and finished with 18 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. The TNT announcers mentioned that he was out from the half early, just putting up shots and it paid off.
The key matchup of the game was at the point guard where the playoff tested Mike Bibby went against the young Rajon Rondo in just his first playoff game. Rondo was incredible with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals and NO turnovers. He hit the open jumper, tipped in misses and drove to the hoop and was 6-9 from the field. Mike Bibby shot 2-10 for 5 points and 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 turnovers. Once again, Rondo stepped up and answered all questions emphatically.
The Celtics shot 47% while holding the Hawks to 38%. They were out rebounded by the Hawks 41-40 and that is one area they need to improve on. The old adage goes: "Offense fills seats, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships." The Celtics can't allow teams to beat them on the boards. The Celtics kept their turnovers down with only 10 for the game, which is a very positive sign. The Celtics didn't play their best in this game and still won by 23. Hopefully they will come out with increased focus and not allow the Hawks any hope in this series.
With the Sixers surprising the Pistons tonight in Detroit and the Cavs and Wizards beating each other up, it would be a huge advantage to close this series out in 4 games. Next game is Wednesday and hopefully, the Celtics will come out with focus and intensity and go up 2-0 in the series.