Winning in the postseason is tough enough, but take away a team's best player, and it becomes a heck of a lot tougher. That will be the case for the Boston Celtics, who will take on the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday night at Philips Arena without their most talent player, Rajon Rondo.
Rondo was suspended for one game after making contact with referee Marc Davis in the fourth quarter of Boston's loss in Game 1. Rondo, upset about a loose ball foul called against Boston, yelled at Davis and was assessed a technical foul. As Davis was walking away, Rondo pursued him and chest bumped him in the back, resulting in his ejection.
Boston struggled right from the start in Game 1, but still found itself down by four, 78-74, at the time of Rondo's ejection with 41 seconds left in the game. Rondo's absence was understandably a big loss for the Celtics, who couldn't recover. Atlanta closed out the game with a 5-0 run, capturing an 83-74 win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The first quarter put the Celtics in a big hole, with the Hawks opening up the game on a 20-6 run before taking a 31-18 lead after 12 minutes, thanks in part to a nine-point quarter from Josh Smith. Boston was outscored 18-17 in the second quarter and would outscore Atlanta in both the third (18-16) and fourth (21-18) quarters, but it was too little, too late.
Smith finished with a game high in points (22) and rebounds (18) and Jeff Teague had 15 points and six assists. Kirk Hinrich scored 12 and Joe Johnson, the Hawks' leading scorer, was 3-for-15 from the field and had 11 points. Atlanta shot 40.8 percent (31-for-76) and out-rebounded Boston, 50-41, but had twice as many turnovers as Boston did (13-6).
Rondo had a strong game (except for the ejection part), scoring 20 while dishing out 11 assists. Kevin Garnett recovered from a 1-for-9 performance from the field in the first half to score 20 points and tally 12 rebounds for Boston, which was held under 40 percent from the field (39.0 percent; 32-for-82). Paul Pierce scored 12 and Avery Bradley had 10 points. Ray Allen's absence didn't help the cause, either, as the Celtics' reserves scored only four points and the team went 0-for-11 from three-point range.
Allen will likely be sidelined for Game 2 as well, although there is no official word. Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said that Allen did not look like he was ready, leading many to believe he will not play once again. Atlanta will likely get center Zaza Pachulia back.