Garnett found his stroke late and ended up tying Rondo for the team lead with 20 points, but the Celtics did not do nearly enough offensively or defensively to win this one. Do not count on Rondo being in uniform for Game 2 on Tuesday.
Fourth quarter, :41.0, Hawks 81–74: Rondo got tossed.
Garnett, Bass and Smith scrambled on the ground for a loose ball, and it appeared that a jump ball was in order. But Marc Davis called Bass for a foul, which set off Rondo. Rondo protested and picked up a technical foul, then bumped Davis in the back and was tossed.
A. That should have been a jump ball.
B. Rondo has to know the implications there. Not only would he miss the final moments of this game, he is likely to be suspended for another game as well.
Fourth quarter, 3:05, Hawks 76-68: Bass, who had a forgettable first half, knocked down a jumper for his sixth point of the second half as the Celtics crawled back within five points. That did not last long, as Teague nailed a three to force the Celtics to talk things over.
That was Teague's first basket since the second quarter, and it was a back-breaker.
Fourth quarter, 5:27, Hawks 71-63: Garnett finally found his playoff legs, and Rondo continued to do everything in his power to keep the Celtics in the game. The Celtics as a team still did a poor job of hitting the glass on both ends of the court, and while they survived it for most of the season, such weaknesses get magnified in the playoffs.
If not for the Hawks' two offensive rebounds, Atlanta's lead might be tenuous. The Celtics committed no turnovers in the opening 6:33 and moved the ball fairly well, getting four assists on their first five baskets. The biggest thing working against the Celtics may be the clock. Did they wait too late to make their run?
Fourth quarter, 9:14, Hawks 67-59: The Celtics have made some big comebacks before, so 12 points heading into the final quarter would not be insurmountable.
They turned up the defense to begin the final frame, and it led to the Hawks missing three of their first four shots. That allowed the Celtics to turn up the tempo on their terms, not the Hawks', and burst out to a 6-2 run to begin the quarter.
End of third quarter, Hawks 65-53: The Celtics actually cut into the Hawks' lead by two points, but it did not feel like they made much headway in the quarter. Garnett finally found some rhythm with eight points on 3-for-4 shooting, but Hinrich stayed hot.
The Celtics' 3-point shooting completely abandoned them. Boston was 0-for-10 from deep, showing both the absence of Allen but also revealing how well an athletic team like the Hawks can defend the three.
Third quarter, 2:27, Hawks 64-47: Ivan Johnson is not the type of player who looks at a token box out and just runs to the other end of the floor. The Hawks' reserve post man slipped past half-hearted clear outs by Stiemsma to haul in offensive rebounds, leading to two extra scoring chances for the Hawks.
Hot shooting is one thing, but the Hawks cooled down after halftime and shot only 5-for-15 from the field in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Yet they maintained their wide lead by trouncing Boston on the offensive boards 3-0 and getting to the line twice.
Third quarter, 7:05, Hawks 53-43: Hinrich almost lost the ball against Bradley's hawking defense, crossed over and launched a 3-pointer with Bradley's hand in his face… and the ball swished through the net.
That was just how things were going for the Hawks. The Celtics' defense improved somewhat after halftime, but not enough to slow down the Hawks very much. The Celtics cut into the lead with an 8-4 run to being the third quarter, but it will take more than that — or a few stretches of such slight scoring advantages — for the Celtics to get back into this one.
Halftime, Hawks 49-35: This first half could have gone better for the Celtics. They watched the Hawks shoot 49 percent from the field and grab 26 rebounds, while the Celtics were a mere 37 percent from the field with only 18 rebounds.
There was not much good to report from Boston's perspective, but we will try.
The Good: Josh Smith was en fuego. The Hawks power forward was 7-for-12 from the field with 11 rebounds, leading everyone in both categories. … Joe Johnson can not only score, he can create when need be. The big forward/guard had five assists to go along with his 10 points on just 3-for-9 shooting. … Rajon Rondo did everything he could to get the Celtics going on offense, mostly to no avail. Rondo had 12 points and four assists at the half with no turnovers, but no one else on the Celtics was able to muster much offensively or defensively.
The Bad: Kevin Garnett looked rusty, which probably should not be much of a surprise considering all the rest he took in the final week of the season. Garnett missed eight of his nine shots and had trouble with both Smith and Jason Collins (yes, Jason Collins) on both ends of the court.
The So-so: Paul Pierce was aggressive in spurts, but the Celtics needed more than spurts of greatness to stay in this game. Pierce scored nine points, the most of any Boston player other than Rondo, but he did it on only 4-for-10 shooting and committed two personal fouls.
Second quarter, 3:12, Hawks 46-27: Smith finished the regular season with two solid months, and he appeared to carry that over to the postseason. He was 6-for-11 from the field with 13 points and eight rebounds — with more than three minutes remaining before halftime.
Still, nobody other than Rondo had anything working offensively for Boston. Defensively, the Celtics were not much better, allowing Atlanta to shoot 50 percent.
Second quarter, 5:40, 42-25: Drew simply seemed to have too many athletes to throw at the Celtics. Dooling and Pietrus did a good defensive job on Johnson and McGrady, but Atlanta just kept raining jump shots. Backup point guard Jannero Pargo was the latest to get in on the action with a three from the top of the key.
The Celtics bench was getting outscored 9-2 in the first 18 minutes, creating the need for Dooling or Pietrus to supply one of their timely triples.
Second quarter, 9:24, Hawks 33-24: Get the ball to Pierce and get out of the way. That was basically the Celtics' approach in the first few minutes of the second quarter, as Pierce scored four quick points to help the Celtics narrow the gap to single digits.
When Willie Green is hitting fadeaway jumpers, it probably is not the defense's day. It was just that type of game for the Celtics.
End of first quarter, Hawks 31-18: Garnett finally hit a shot — his seventh attempt, making him 1-for-7 from the field — but he cannot be pleased with his showing at either end of the floor in the first quarter. The Hawks committed only one turnover and drew six fouls on the Celtics, who had virtually no offense aside from Rondo.
Rondo had 10 points and three of the Celtics' four assists.
First quarter, 2:06, Hawks 27-12: Nobody except Rondo could find an easy shot for the Celtics, and that is not something that can continue if the Celtics are to have a chance.
Rondo hit three of his first five shots, all on runners and layups, while Pierce and Garnett opened a combined 1-for-9 from the field. Bradley, the all-world defender, even got lost a few times on defense off the ball, allowing an easy cutting layup by Teague.
Everything that seemed like it could go badly for the Celtics happened in the first 10 minutes, and the Celtics' best hope is that Atlanta's hot streak could not continue.
First quarter, 6:50, Hawks 20-6: No matter the Celtics' schematic advantages, they were destined to have trouble in this series if the Hawks got hot.
That was exactly how the Hawks came out of the locker room.
The backcourt led the charge, with Hinrich and Teague combining for 11 points in the early going, but Smith and Johnson did not take long to join in. All together the Hawks hit eight of their first 11 shots, including all three 3-pointers they attempted, to run out to a 14-point lead.
Garnett was very off, missing long, to the side and short on his first three shots. The Celtics need to keep the Highlight Factory crowd — even if a good chunk of the fans are wearing green — from getting too worked up.
6:10 p.m.: Ray Allen is a no-go after Doc Rivers put his status as "50-50" at shootaround. Zaza Pachulia will also miss the game for the Hawks, bringing the total of unsurprising absences in this game to two.
Without Pachulia, who has not played since April 13 with a strained left foot, the Hawks presumably will go with the starting line they sent out for the regular season finale with Jason Collins at center. Do not expect them to stay with that lineup for long, though, as coach Larry Drew should be quick to go to a big lineup with Josh Smith at center and Joe Johnson at shooting guard to capitalize on the Celtics' lack of size in the backcourt.
Then again, we shall see if the Atlanta coach takes that obvious advantage.
8 a.m.: The second season begins now for the Celtics. For perhaps the last time, Kevin Garnett leads the Celtics into Atlanta for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series.
The fourth-seeded Celtics take on the fifth-seeded Hawks without shooting guard Ray Allen (probably), who traveled with the team to Atlanta but is not expected to suit up. The Celtics will otherwise be mostly healthy, while the Hawks are expected to be without a key player of their own in center Al Horford.
The East playoff picture changed drastically Saturday when Bulls guard Derrick Rose suffered a torn ACL late in a win over the Sixers. A door may have opened for the winner of the four/five series in the second round, adding to the intrigue of the Celtics' series — if that is possible.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip-off.