The time for talk is over. Put up, or shut up. Entering perhaps their final run together, the Big Four and the Boston Celtics open their pursuit of a second NBA championship against the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs on Sunday night at Philips Arena. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast on TNT.
Boston and Atlanta played three times in the regular season, with the Celtics winning twice. The first meeting was on March 19, when a 29-25 advantage in the fourth quarter, coupled with a 10-point, 13-assist night from Rajon Rondo, powered Boston to a 79-76 win. In the next meeting on April 11, Boston escaped with an 88-86 overtime win at TD Garden, led by Kevin Garnett (22 points, 12 rebounds), Rajon Rondo (10 points, 10 rebounds, 20 assists) and Brandon Bass (21 points). Atlanta won the season series finale, 97-92, on April 20.
Both teams will be down a key player in Game 1, and likely for the remainder of the series. Boston will be without guard Ray Allen, whose swollen right ankle will eventually require surgery. Allen had his second cortisone shot on Wednesday, and he did not travel with the team to Atlanta, leaving his status for the playoffs up in the air. Atlanta, meanwhile, will be without center Al Horford, who has not played since January 11 due to a chest injury.
Boston and Atlanta play Game 2 on Tuesday night (7:30 p.m. EST) at Philips Arena before the series moves to Boston for Games 3 and 4, which will be played on Friday and Sunday.