It has been a long time since fans in Boston have been excited about playoff basketball, so this time around they’re enjoying every minute of it. Celtic supporters were raucous in all 4 quarters of Boston’s second playoff victory over the Atlanta Hawks, in which they cruised to the 96-77 victory last night at the TD Banknorth Garden to take a 2-0 series lead.
Five Celtics scored in double figures, led by Kevin Garnett’s 19 point, 10 rebound performance which came on the night when he was awarded the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year trophy in pre-game ceremonies. When he was handed the trophy at mid-court, he motioned for his teammates to come over and join him as he accepted the award.
“It’s not one person but it is all of us that make up this award,” Garnett said.
The team then went out and backed up Garnett’s statement, contributing very evenly up and down the line up in another showing of pure domination over a Hawks line up that just can’t hang with the big boys.
“This has been an experience,” said Josh Smith of the Hawks, who dropped 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the loss. “When we return home, we are going to need our fans as much as ever.”
The Boston fans played a big role as the 6th man in games 1 and 2, getting into the head of Hawks starting point guard Mike Bibby. Bibby, a ten year veteran of the NBA, made some surprising comments regarding the local fan base after the game 1 loss saying that they were ‘fair weather fans who jumped on the bandwagon’.
Bibby certainly heard it last night from the Garden crowd, receiving boo’s every time he touched the ball, chants even reigned down on him in the 4th quarter when he was on the bench like, “Where is Bibby?” and “Rondo’s Better.” Combined in games one and two, Bibby shot 4 for 17 from the floor and only had 2 assists. Rondo, on the other hand, has been a leader on the court shooting 12 of 20 in both games with 17 assists and only 1 turnover.
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers had high expectations of the young point guard for the year, but never imagined this type of immediate production and contributions Rondo has made to the team.
“He puts so much time into his game so it’s nice to see a guy who works on it and see it come to fruition,” Rivers said. “He’s so ahead of the curve. He started last year with a great IQ, which always helps because then you have something to work with. And then he has this self motivation that he wants to be good, that he wants to be the best. And he has the stubborn streak that sometimes gets in his way, but he has learned to move that out of the way and allowed himself to be coached.”
On nights like last, the players make Doc’s job easy. The Celtics held Atlanta to another awful shooting night from the field at .383 % and out rebounded them 58 to 40. It was simply another display of dominance by the Eastern Conference favorites and makes one wonder if the Hawks are tying, or if this first round of the playoffs is simply a formality for them.
Along with Garnett scoring in double figures, the Celtics received 15 from Ray Allen, 14 from Paul Pierce, 12 from Rondo and 10 from Sam Cassell off the bench. Kendrick Perkins added 8 points and 9 rebounds in another solid game in the low post.
The series will now shift to Atlanta for games 3 and 4, with the Hawks hoping to have better luck in front of their home crowd. They will need to win at least one game to keep the series alive. The Celtics have other plans, and look to keep their quest for Green 17 alive.
Celtics Playoff tickets available for all potential games and rounds. Full refund for any game not played.