BOSTON, April 17 (Ticker) -- Rodney Rogers
had 25 points and eight
rebounds as the Boston Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks,
89-81, to enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak.
began the game with a 3-pointer to give the Celtics
the lead, one they would not relinquish. Pierce had 13 of his 17
points in the first quarter as Boston jumped out to a 24-11
Pierce sat out the final quarter for the Celtics, who were
playing without Antoine Walker
. The All-Star forward was placed
on the injured list before the contest to rest a sprained left
thumb suffered in the team's win at Minnesota on Monday.
Both Pierce and Walker addressed the fans at FleetCenter before
the game to thank them for their support this season, which
ended with the team's first playoff appearance in seven years.
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Rodney Rogers led all scorers with 25 points, making five threes in the process.
Jesse D. Garrabrant
"It's all over," Pierce said. "It's been a great season for us.
The hard work through the whole season to get to the point where
we are tonight, it's definitely a great feeling. My first
playoff in four years, we're definitely excited."
Boston (49-33) had already secured the third seed in the Eastern
Conference. It will host long-time rival Philadelphia in Game 1
of the first round of the playoffs at the FleetCenter on Sunday
afternoon. Later that evening, the Boston Bruins will face the
Montreal Canadiens in an NHL playoff matchup at the same venue.
The last time there was a Bruins-Celtics playoff doubleheader in
the same building was on May 9, 1991 at the Boston Garden.
"Doesn't matter at all (whom we play)," Rogers said. "One way or
another we're going to have to play them. The main thing is
that we have home-court advantage and they have to come to us."
Rogers started for Walker and shot 10-of-19 for his highest
point total since being acquired from Phoenix in midseason.
"We wanted to come out and get this win," Rogers said. "We
didn't just want to come out and bag it in just to say that
we're in the playoffs. We've got a lot of pride with this team
and the guys have worked hard, and it would have been a shame to
go out in the last game of the regular season and bag it in."
had 16 points and Jacque Vaughn
15 for the
Hawks, who finished 33-49. They were riddled with injuries but
still improved eight games over last season.
"The last couple of months have really given us a starting point
going into the offseason," Hawks coach Lon Kruger said. "It
really wasn't the year that we wanted to have. A lot of guys got
a lot of quality minutes and made a lot of progress. We've got
a ways to go but we've got a good group to start with."
The Hawks were missing point guard Jason Terry
, who was given a
one-game suspension and fined $10,000 for fighting Orlando's Don
after a hard foul on Tuesday.
Pierce finished the season with a league-best 2,144 points. He
became the first Celtics player to lead the NBA in that
After scoring a layup with 17 seconds left in the third quarter
to give the Celtics a 71-64 advantage, center Vitaly Potapenko
landed awkwardly and limped off the court. He will undergo an
MRI on Thursday after the team doctor gave him a preliminary
examination and could not feel anything torn.
"We're very happy to get 49 wins in the regular season," Celtics
coach Jim O'Brien said. "I'm very proud of our effort
throughout the year. The guys really picked it up in the fourth
quarter, played solid defense and kept us with some momentum
going into the playoffs."
"The feeling is not just that you made the playoffs but that you
can go into the playoffs and do some damage," Walker said.
"We've got high goals but we've got to continue to stay focused.
It's going to be an exciting few days before Sunday."