BOSTON - The stars returned for the Atlanta Hawks in Game 4, with both center Al Horford and forward Josh Smith returning to action, but they could not save their team as the Boston Celtics pounded the Hawks, 101-79, in Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead.
Horford had been sidelined with a chest injury that had kept him on the sidelines for the first three games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and had not played since December 9. Smith did not play in Game 3 after spraining his left knee in Game 2 last Tuesday.
Both players were relatively effective on a night where Atlanta couldn't find rhythm. Horford finished with 12 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes while Smith led the team with 15 points and 13 boards in 32 minutes. The two were a combined 11-for-23 from the floor.
Smith was a game-time decision prior to Game 4, said Hawks head coach Larry Drew about 90 minutes prior to tip-off. Horford's return, though, was a bit more of a surprise.
"We knew that it would be a game time decision," Drew said. "After he warmed up, we'd see how he felt. He came in after he warmed up and said he felt good, that he wanted to give it a go. So right then and there I knew that I would give him some minutes. My plan was to play him about five minutes a quarter, just to get his legs, get his wind a little bit. He actually got out there and said that he felt pretty good so I played him just a little bit longer.
"After staring him third quarter, he got into a pretty good rhythm where he felt good; and therefore I decided to just wait and play him in the third quarter if we could put a dent in the score, I'd play him in the fourth. Obviously, we weren't able to do that so I decided to sit him in that fourth quarter. He said he did feel pretty good, and I thought he did a good job coming back after being gone for three plus months. I thought he did a good job tonight."
Horford had made conflicting statements about his estimated return time in the last week of the regular season, but needless to say, he was just happy to finally be back on the floor.
"I felt okay, just excited to be back," he said. "I wanted to be a game time decision because in the past two weeks I kept going back and forth on whether or not I was going to be able to play. Finally, felt good enough and confident enough to go out there. Obviously, it's disappointing for us to come out and lose this way, but the good thing is, is that we're going back home. It's 3-1 and I'm sure a lot of people are probably writing us off already. We feel pretty good about going back home."
Horford wouldn't divulge his plans for Game 5 on Tuesday night at Philips Arena in Atlanta.
"We'll see how I feel tomorrow, either way I'm going to be supporting the team," said Horford. "If I can play I will if not then I'll be there to support them like I have all year."