Final, 101-79: In a display of utter domination, Rajon Rondo recorded 20 points and 16 assists with only one turnover, and Paul Pierce scored 24 points on 10-for-13 shooting as the Celtics trounced the Hawks in Game 4.
The series heads back to Atlanta with Boston holding a 3-1 lead.
Fourth quarter, 5:57, Celtics 98-71: Dooling and Marquis Daniels will take this one home for the Celtics. E'Twaun Moore came off the bench for some burn, too. It's time to look ahead to Game 5.
Fourth quarter, 8:48, Celtics 96-67: Pierce took a seat shortly after halftime, Garnett joined him on the bench, and Rondo could be done for the night, too.
The Celtics were less than nine minutes away from heading back to Atlanta with a whole load of momentum.
End of third quarter, Celtics 90-63: Rondo was not about to get a triple-double in this game, barring a ridiculous final quarter on the glass, but he may have been more impressive in this one than in Game 3.
Rondo had 16 points and 15 assists through three quarters and still had yet to commit a turnover. He capped off the third with a fake behind-the-back pass and layup after drilling his second 3-pointer of the game earlier in the frame.
Rondo also had three steals but only three rebounds. The triple-double is a nice novelty, but this performance is a true masterpiece.
Third quarter, 2:46, Celtics 82-55: Smith and Horford remained on the court late in the third quarter for Atlanta, despite both playing with injuries. The Celtics countered with Allen, but he had only played short minutes in the first half and may have been out there to get into a rhythm more than anything.
Smith had 15 points and 12 rebounds — and six turnovers.
Third quarter, 5:28, Celtics 82-49: Pierce started the second half, but he did not stay for long. He did not appear to be moving well, even though he did hit two 3s, before exiting the game. He rode the bike near the tunnel, but with the Celtics leading by as many as 37 points, it made sense for Rivers to give him as much rest as needed.
The Celtics hit their first five shots of the second half, continuing an offensive assault that had the Hawks reeling. Rondo was up to 15 assists without a single turnover.
Halftime, Celtics 64-41: Pierce joined his teammates on the court for halftime warmups.
Halftime, Celtics 63-41: The Celtics may not have wanted the first half to end. They took the Hawks to the woodshed in the first 24 minutes, shooting 64 percent from the field and forcing 11 turnovers.
The only negative for the Celtics was Pierce leaving the game after twisting his knee. Pierce walked to the locker room under his own power, and the team said his return was probable.
The Good: Rajon Rondo was a force at both ends, out-assisting the Hawks' entire team 13-9. He also had two steals and committed no turnovers. … Pierce was dominant before his departure, shooting 8-for-11 for a game-high 18 points. … Ray Allen also was scorching, hitting four of his six attempts and adding three rebounds.
The Bad: Jeff Teague had what might have been his worst half of the series, missing four of his six shots and picking up two early fouls.
The So-so: Josh Smith led the Hawks with nine points, eight rebounds and four assists, but he was hardly efficient. Smith shot 2-for-7 and needed six foul shots to get his points. He also had four turnovers. … Joe Johnson was efficient when he shot, going 3-for-4 from the field, but his lack of aggressiveness hurt the Hawks, who needed all the offensive help they could get.
Second quarter, 5:45, Celtics 51-29: The air went out of the building quickly when Pierce crumpled to the deck and grabbed his left knee.
Pierce had just hit a 3 to extend Boston's lead to 22 points, but the sight of Pierce on the parquet killed a lot of the crowd's enthusiasm. Pierce walked off the court but then headed to the locker room.
Second quarter, 6:59, Celtics 46-27: Pierce was shooting lights-out, but the real danger sign for the Hawks was that Brandon Bass threw down a dunk. Bass has been Boston's biggest hard-luck player thus far in the series, and if he starts making noise offensively, Atlanta would be in trouble.
Pierce hit a jumper and a 3-pointer to make him seven for his first nine from the field. He missed a trey just before Bass' dunk, and it was jarring to see him finally miss.
Second quarter, 8:24, Celtics 39-26: The turnover troubles did not stop for the Hawks at the beginning of the second quarter, and the Celtics' reserve unit poured it on at both ends of the court. Dooling came through with a 3-pointer and a fadeaway jumper, and Daniels made an appearance for the first time since Game 2 to hit a medium-range jumper.
The Hawks were up to 10 turnovers for the game after eight in the first quarter. The fumbles led to easy baskets for the Celtics, which helped Boston's 17-for-26 shooting mark. Then again, the Celtics were shooting fine with or without the fastbreak points.
End of the first quarter, Celtics 32-19: It was difficult to narrow down a hero for Boston in the first 12 minutes. Rondo was obviously a major factor with seven assists, two steals and no turnovers, but Pierce hit five of his seven shots to lead the team with 10 points.
Garnett shook off some physical play by Horford on the Celtics' final possession of the third quarter for an and-one layup, then blocked Horford's layup attempt as the first quarter expired. Garnett looked like a man possessed in the first quarter, with seven points and precise defense.
The Hawks did not seem to have an answer for any lineup the Celtics sent out. Boston finished the first quarter with Garnett, Greg Stiemsma, Mickael Pietrus, Marquis Daniels and Keyon Dooling and still managed to keep a comfortable lead.
First quarter, 2:47, Celtics 25-16: Al Horford made his first appearance in nearly four months, but it did not help the Hawks much. Horford immediately got called for an offensive foul and had his left arm — the one attached to the left pectoral muscle that suffered the injury he is currently recovering from — wrenched in a foul by Allen.
The Hawks committed seven turnovers in the first nine minutes, and Teague picked up his second foul. He headed to the bench, the same place Bradley headed after he picked up his own second foul early in the first quarter. Allen replaced Bradley.
First quarter, 7:56, Celtics 13-6: The Celtics did not win the tip, but that was pretty much the only thing they did not win in the opening minutes. They hit their first two shots and six of their first eight, while forcing four Atlanta turnovers in the first four minutes.
Bradley showed that while his non-shooting shoulder may be ailing, his shooting shoulder was just fine. Bradley nailed a pullup jumper from the elbow and a corner 3-pointer. Rondo sliced a bounce pass through the lane to a cutting Garnett for a dunk, giving Rondo five assists and no turnovers. Although Smith looked ready to go in his return with a tough drive for a dunk, the Celtics were firing on all cylinders in the early going.
6:14 p.m.: Doc Rivers reported prior to the game that both Avery Bradley and Ray Allen would play against the Hawks, while Josh Smith told reporters that he would play as well.
Allen also dropped a bit of surprising news by saying that he now is reconsidering offseason surgery on his right ankle. Allen had said that surgery was required, but based on how the ankle now feels, he was not as certain surgery was a necessity.
The offseason was of no concern Sunday, though.
Al Horford was made active for the Hawks, which was a bit surprising, but the Hawks have been back and forth with their health prognoses in the last few weeks. In a matter of three days toward the end of the regular season, there were reports saying Horford would not play, that he would play and finally that he would not play in the first round of the playoffs.
So, if he plays, do not be surprised. If he does not play, do not be surprised, either.
The probable starters appear below.
8 a.m.: The Celtics could put the Hawks' backs against the wall.
A 3-1 series lead is a nearly insurmountable deficit in a best-of-seven series, and the Celtics have a chance to take just such an advantage in Game 4. Since losing the opening game, the Celtics won two straight and will try to protect their home court again Sunday.
Ray Allen played well in his return to the lineup Friday, but his status is uncertain for Sunday. The Hawks are also also hoping to have Josh Smith back in uniform after he missed Game 3 with a left knee injury.
Join us for updates and analysis live from the TD Garden, where tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
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