They had their chances, and plenty of them. Still, when they needed baskets, they couldn't get them, and that's why the Boston Celtics were dropped by the Atlanta Hawks, 83-74, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Sunday evening in Atlanta, GA.
Josh Smith carried the Hawks with his 22-point, 18-rebound performance. Jeff Teague scored 15, Kirk Hinrich added 12 points and Atlanta's leading scorer, Joe Johnson, had 11 points on 3-of-15 shooting. Atlanta shot just 40.8 percent (31-of-76) in the victory.
Kevin Garnett rebounded from a poor first-half performance and finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds while Rajon Rondo, who was ejected in the fourth quarter after lambasting and making contact with an official, had 20 points and 11 assists. Paul Pierce had 12 points, Avery Bradley scored 10 and Brandon Bass totaled eight points.
By way of uncontested shots and some hot hands, the Hawks built a 20-6 lead the open the game and stretched the advantage to 19 points in the first half before an 8-3 run by the Celtics to end the second quarter brought the game within 14 points, 49-35, at halftime.
Once more, the Hawks took advantage of porous defense to retake a 19-point lead (64-45 at 3:47 of third quarter), only to squander away the lead again. Garnett, who was 1-of-9 from the floor in the first half, found his stride in the second half and helped lead Boston on a 7-0 run that cut the Hawks' lead to five points, 71-66, with 4:43 to play in the fourth.
Yet when it mattered most, Atlanta started hitting its shots. Smith made a 19-footer, Teague found the net for a 25-foot three and later nailed a two to make it an eight point game, 78-70, at 1:58. Two free throws from Garnett and a leaning 17-foot jump shot in the corner from Pierce pulled the Celtics within four points, 78-74, with 1:01 remaining in the game.
Then came the mistake that sealed the Celtics' fate, and possibly hurt their chances going forward. After a loose ball foul was called on Bass, Rondo lost his cool and lambasted the referee, which resulted in a double-technical (a.k.a. an ejection). On his way off the court, Rondo bumped the referee, which will likely result in a league suspension and a fine.
Boston will have a day off on Monday to reflect before looking for its first win of the series in Game 2, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday night at Philips Arena in Atlanta.