Celtics 74, Hawks 83
Putting the clamps on Joe Johnson and Josh Smith are the keys to grabbing a victory when playing the Atlanta Hawks. Tonight, however, a third wheel proved to be the deciding factor.
Boston nearly trailed from start to finish in Game 1 but made a furious run in the fourth quarter to crawl within four points after trailing by as many as 19 points in the game. On the most critical possession of the game, Jeff Teague stepped up to deliver the dagger Atlanta needed to take a 1-0 series lead.
The C’s were within five when the Hawks took possession of the ball at the 3:29-mark of the fourth quarter. It was a do-or-die moment for both teams: a stop for Boston would give the team a chance to make it a one-possession game at the other end; a bucket for Atlanta would snap the Celtics’ momentum and put the game back in its hands.
Teague made sure the latter happened by splashing in a 3-pointer from the right wing, sinking the hearts of Boston’s fans around the world.
The play had an interesting dynamic to it. The Celtics’ defense was in full rotation as the ball was swung to Teague. Mickael Pietrus, who was defending Kirk Hinrich in the right corner, was the next player in that rotation. However, instead of leaving Hinrich in order to close out on Teague, Pietrus remained in the corner.
Teague threw a slight pass fake in Hinrich’s direction, and that was enough to convince Pietrus the he needed to stay put. In one fluid motion, Teague progressed from that pass fake to a jumper, and the rest is history. According to Teague, he knew what was going to happen before it event took place.
“I knew they were going to stunt off of me, because Kirk’s been making shots from the corner,” Teague said after the game. “So I knew Pietrus was probably going to stunt off of me. So I just tried to set my feet and knock it down.”
It wasn’t the final basket of the night, but it sure was the biggest. It broke Boston’s momentum, and it gave Atlanta a 1-0 series lead.
Key Box Score Line
We said coming into tonight’s game that Josh Smith might be more important to Atlanta’s success than Joe Johnson is. Smith gave some more ammo to that argument tonight.
Smith recorded a monster double-double of 22 points and 18 rebounds for Atlanta. He carried the team in the first half by notching a double-double that most would be proud of for an entire four quarters: 15 points, 11 rebounds.
The one factor that determines Smith’s success is his jump shooting. He had the jumper working tonight and it gave the Celtics fits. He shot 8-for-20 in the game, but during that red-hot first half – the half in which Atlanta built its 19-point lead – Smith made seven of his 12 shot attempts.
Kevin Garnett put the clamps on Smith in the second half, but it was already too late. Atlanta’s big man was by far the best player on the floor tonight. The C’s will need to figure out a way to limit his production if they want to tie this series up Tuesday night.
Box Score Nuggets
- Boston actually made more field goals, 32, than Atlanta (31) did, but still lost by nine points.
- Josh Smith recorded game-highs of 22 points and 18 rebounds.
- The Celtics were outrebounded 50-41.
- Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett tied for the team-high in scoring with 20 points apiece.
- Garnett also led the team in rebounding with 12 boards.
- The Celtics shot 0-for-11 from 3-point range.
- Joe Johnson (3-for-15) and Paul Pierce (5-for-19) combined to shoot 8-for-34 on the night.
- Greg Stiemsma came off of Boston's bench to grab nine rebounds, four of which were offensive.
- Boston's reserves combined to score just four points.
- The Celtics committed just six turnovers.
- Rondo dished out a game-high 11 assists.
- Rondo was ejected from the game with 41 seconds remaining after drawing two technical fouls.
- Atlanta scored 31 points in the first quarter but did not surpass 18 points in any of the final three quarters.
Quote of the Night
Rajon Rondo on the play that resulted in him being ejected from the game: "I was upset about the call, and I said something to (Mark Davis). As I was walking I thought he stopped and my momentum carried me into him. I even think I tripped on his foot. I didn’t intentionally chest bump him."