81 - 104 Final
  for this game

High-powered Celtics rout Hawks in Game One

Apr 21, 2008 - 4:40 AM By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics won 66 games in the regular season. On Sunday night, in the first game of their hopeful playoff run to a record 17th NBA crown, they showed how they did it.

Ray Allen scored 12 of his 18 points in a key third-quarter spurt to help lead the Celtics over the Atlanta Hawks, 104-81, in Game One of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.

"Really, just good to get that first one out of the way," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I think our guys have really been waiting for it, longer than most teams in a lot of ways, having it sowed out a few weeks ago. I thought we played well, but we can play better, and that's the good news."

Paul Pierce added 16 points, Kevin Garnett collected 16 and 10 rebounds and Rajon Rondo added 15, nine assists and six rebounds for well-balanced Boston, which had six players score in double figures.

"I thought in the first half, like Paul said, we would settle in the first playoff game, knockin' the cobwebs out off our bodies or whatever you want to call it," Garnett said.

Garnett also led the defensive effort, helping to hold Atlanta to just 38 percent shooting from the field for the game.

"I thought we settled in a lot better in the second half as far as what we were doing defensively, we had a rhythm defensively if that is even possible," Garnett added. "Turned up the heat a little bit and really played our style of basketball and did what we wanted to do on the defensive end."

Rookie Al Horford had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Joe Johnson scored 19 for the Hawks, who qualified for the playoffs despite a 37-45 record.

The top-seeded Celtics and the eighth-seeded Hawks met for the first time in the playoffs since Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins had their epic Game Seven showdown in 1987.

The Celtics came out looking to assert their superiority in the first quarter. Thanks to the sensational play of Rondo, they accomplished the goal, racing out to a 24-10 lead when Allen hit a free throw after Mike Bibby was whistled for a technical with 4:46 remaining in the first.

Playing in his first career playoff game, Rondo showed no sign of nerves, matching Pierce with a team-leading nine points in the first quarter.

But early foul trouble was the equalizer that helped the Hawks close the margin in the second quarter.

Garnett and Kendrick Perkins each picked up three fouls in the first half, forcing Boston coach Doc Rivers to rely heavily on his rookie point guard and bench.

"I think we were settling for a lot of jump shots when we should have been driving," Hawks guard Joe Johnson said. "KG had three fouls, and we never put the pressure on them. We settled for a lot of jump shots and that hurt us."

The Celtics also were picked up by their shooting from the arc, converting 5-of-7 3-pointers in the first half on their way to a 49-40 lead.

Atlanta was staying in the game, outscoring Boston, 20-12, in the paint.

"I think the main problem for us in the first half was controlling the drive to the middle," Pierce said. "Coach said at halftime he wanted us to keep them out of the paint, they were just driving getting to the line, finding guys."

In the third quarter, it was a 3-pointer in transition by Allen with 7:47 remaining in the third that gave the Celtics a 60-44 lead.

Allen who single-handedly took over in the third, hit two shots from the arc and a jumper in succession to help Boston build its lead to 73-55 after three.

"The ball floated my way," Allen said. "We found a play that worked and we exploited it. But it was important that the decisions I made upon scoring the ball and making sure that I found the open guy, and made the offense run a lot more easy than the ball sticking in my hand and not making the play for the team."

As hot as the Celtics were, the Hawks were that cold from the field, as their backcourt of Bibby and Johnson combined to shoot 9-of-32 from the floor.

"I thought our guys weathered the storm early," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "Four of our starters went 4-of-49, give the Celtics credit on that. But they haven't shot that bad all season. The guys were anxious to start the game but that is expected, we just can't have our starters playing the way they did tonight."

The Celtics built their lead up to 23 points at 91-68 in the fourth quarter on Leon Powe's emphatic slam dunk and free throw with 5:53 to go.

Game Two is set for Wednesday night at TD Banknorth Garden.

"We will watch tape and try to clean up our offense," Woodson said. "They started to go to the mismatches and exploit us there. We need to re-group and bounce back on Wednesday."

"I didn't expect it to be like this but I'm glad we got it out of the way," Johnson added. "These guys got the playoff experience, and they pretty much know how it's going to be. Game Two I expect pretty much a different reaction."