for this game

Garnett, Celtics hammer Hawks once again

Apr 24, 2008 - 4:20 AM By Tony Lee PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- Mike Bibby got an earful from the fans and another clinic from Rajon Rondo on Wednesday.

Rondo had 12 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals to spearhead a balanced attack for the Boston Celtics, who posted a 96-77 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Game Two of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.

Kevin Garnett had his second double-double of the series with 19 points and 10 boards and Ray Allen chipped in 15 points for the Celtics, who took a 2-0 lead and will attempt to put a stranglehold on the series in Game Three on Saturday in Atlanta.

"Obviously, we love the win, and I think our guys played with great effort tonight throughout the game," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "I didn't think we played great all game, but our effort was great all game."

The Hawks, who have lost five straight dating to the regular season, were led by Josh Smith with 13 points on 3-of-13 shooting. Bibby, the new public enemy No. 1 in Boston for comments he made against the fans Tuesday, scored 12 on 2-of-7 shooting.

Bibby had just five points and one assist in Game One, while Rondo finished with 15 and nine in roughly six minutes less time. Bibby followed up that effort by chiding Celtics' fans - calling them "bandwagoners" and "fair-weather fans" in a recent interview.

"Neither one of us has said anything (stupid)," Garnett said when asked if he or Ray Allen ever said anything to rile up opposing fans. "It is hard enough playing on the road vs. causing attention to yourself. I can't recall, no, neither one of us has said anything crazy like that."

Bibby was booed each time he touched the ball Wednesday and did little to silence the catcalls.

"I'm not worried about that," Bibby said of the fans' reaction. "I didn't make anything happen for my team ... I heard them. I knew it was going to happen. I'm not really worried about the crowd. (The Celtics] played a good game."

Bibby shot 1-of-5 and had no assists in the first half, while Rondo recorded six assists, including three on consecutive possessions in the first quarter that gave the Celtics an early 22-11 lead.

Sam Cassell scored eight points in limited action spelling Rondo in the second before the speedy point guard returned to cap a 12-8 burst with a floater and a feed to Garnett, who threw down a one-handed jam for a 52-37 advantage with 2:58 to go.

"He's playing terrific," Rivers said of Rondo. "His quickness is a factor when he uses it as one. So far in two games, it's been a factor, and it's good to see him do that."

To hear Bibby say it, Rondo will have a chance to shine later in the series, too.

"He is playing good," Bibby said. "The main thing we are trying to do is see what he can do out there. They have the 'Big Three' out there, and the main focus is them three. (Rondo) is stepping his game up and hitting his shots, and we are going to let him shoot it."

There were a series of physical encounters in the first half, including a hard foul that forced Paul Pierce to the Celtics' locker room with a strained lower back.

Garnett got tied up underneath a handful of times, and Boston forward James Posey delivered a flagrant foul in the second half.

"It's nothing we can't handle," Boston center Kendrick Perkins said of the physical play. "Our teams play physical at practice every day. ... Yeah, they gave a hard foul to one of our superstars, but he came back and competed."

Atlanta, which has lost its last six playoff games, trailed by 10 at the half. Things didn't get any better after the break.

Rondo's alley-oop to Garnett was part of an early 8-2 burst, and he later hit a pair of baseline jumpers - one after a steal inside - and scored on a fast break for a 71-52 lead that forced an Atlanta timeout with 3:19 left in the third.

Boston's first 20-point lead of the night came on Allen's 3-pointer moments later, and chants of "Where is Bibby?" rained down in the fourth - as Acie Law played a long stretch at point guard for the Hawks - and "Rondo's better" when Bibby later went to the line.

To his credit, Bibby was able to see what the real issue in the series is.

"We can't put the ball in the basket," he said. "They are making it tough for us on the strong side. We have to go back and watch film and see how they are playing us."

Pierce shrugged off the back injury to score 14 points for the hosts.

Atlanta turned the ball over 22 times. It was never closer than 14 points in the fourth.

Boston has dominated the series in nearly all phases through the first two games, but Rondo feels they're just getting started.

"Playoffs, they told me, doesn't start until you win one on the road," he said. "Hopefully, we start it on Saturday."

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