Hawks do it their way to take Game 1 over Celtics (updated)

Josh Smith takes it to the hoops against Boston's Greg Stiemsma, as the Hawks started impressively against the Celtics. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Josh Smith, here taking it to hoop against Greg Stiemsma, paced the Hawks with 22 points, 18 rebounds (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated: 10:50 p.m.)

If they win this series, if the Hawks somehow manage to bury the Boston demon one postseason after burying the Orlando demon, it can’t be the Josh-and-Joe show. It has to be this guy, or that guy, the other guy or … wait, which guy was banned in Korea again?

It has to be like what happened Sunday night.

Boston cuts a 19-point lead to 10. What happens? Kirk Hinich hits a three-pointer. Jason Collins hits a pair of shots (wait, Jason Collins?). So starts an 11-2 run that re-inflates the lead to 19.

Later in the fourth quarter, Boston cuts the lead to eight. What happens? Jannero Pargo drives for a hoop. Tracy McGrady sneaks past three seemingly comatose Celtics for a rebound and a jam. Suddenly the lead is back up to 12.

This is how you win a playoff series. The Hawks won only one game Sunday night, not a series, but Game 1 was significant.

They defeated the Celtics 83-74 at Philips Arena (where Boston amusingly was swept in three playoff games in 2008). They won with significant contributions through the lineup. They won it, not because any single player carried them but because everybody carried them just enough.

It was like watching a line of ants transporting a kernel of rice.

“We knew we had to win the energy game,” coach Larry Drew said. “We had to win the hustle game. I think we did that.”

How perfectly was this win wrapped up in the end? It was the Celtics — the playoff-veteran team — that melted down in the end.

With the Hawks leading 78-74 and 1:01 left, Josh Smith dove on the court for a loose ball with Brandon Bass. Smith came up with the ball as the whistle blew. Bass was called for a foul. Guard Rajon Rondo, who has been the Celtics’ best player, argued the call, screaming for a jump ball. He was hit with a technical, then bumped official Marc Davis and was ejected. The free throws not only helped seal the win, Rondo may be suspended for Game 2 Tuesday night.

Did the floor just tilt?

Rondo’s interesting interpretation of what happened: “As I was walking I thought he stopped and my momentum carried me into him. I even think I tripped on his foot. I didn’t intentionally chest bump him.”

This is where I mention that the Hawks are playing without Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia, because, well, not a lot of people are picking the Hawks to win this series without them. (ESPN has a panel of 13 “experts”: 12 picked the Celtics, the other didn’t get the memo and picked the Hawks.)

It would have helped the Celtics if somebody other than Ray Allen could hit a three-point shot. As it was, he was wearing a suit because of a sprained ankle and his teammates went 0-for-11.

Drew summarized his team’s injury situation going into the playoffs: “This is the reason we had so much dialogue in the offseason about strengthening our bench. We needed depth. My bench will have to be effective for us to be successful.”

What we saw were players diving for loose balls, crashing the boards. We saw Johnson, while dreadful offensively — 3-for-15 shooting, 0-for-9 from three-range, 11 points, four turnovers — play strong on defense. It was Johnson who said before the game that the team must play “nastier” without Horford and Pachulia.

The Hawks hit eight of their first 11 shots. Hinrich, who generally has been pedestrian since coming back from an injury, hit a pair of threes. Atlanta led 16-4, 24-10, 29-12.

Smith was, in Drew’s word, “an animal.” He led the Hawks with 22 points, 18 rebounds four assists and a block.

“When he’s playing with that energy, when he’s playing with that type of rhythm, he just makes us so much better,” Drew said.

This isn’t like 2008, when the young Hawks could play “loosey-goosey,” in the playoff series against the Celtics because, as Johnson said, “Everybody expected us to get swept anyway.”

This series is different. Maybe externally, expectations aren’t high. But the Hawks view themselves as no worse than equals to the Celtics. They even finished the season with a better record, even though Boston was one of the league’s hottest teams down the stretch (24-10 after the All-Star break).

And in Game 1, the Hawks looked like the better team.

By Jeff Schultz

103 comments Add your comment

rondoThimUP

April 29th, 2012
10:22 pm

ISnt it pretty much certain that Rondo will be suspended per the NBA rule book?

JSS

April 29th, 2012
10:24 pm

Game plan… Now they’ll be desperate, and that is exactly where you want them!

FreshmakerGT

April 29th, 2012
10:32 pm

Great job by the Hawks keeping their composure down the stretch when the shots weren’t falling. Good win. On to game 2!

j

April 29th, 2012
10:33 pm

notice how many bandwagon celtics fans were in the arena tonight? i saw one lady, wearing a rondo jersey, cheer for the Atlanta Hawks players when they came out onto the court for warm-ups. that is the sole reason why atlanta has the worst fans. people come out and cheer for the opposing team, even though they weren’t even born in the city they’re cheering for. at least i can say it was 80% Hawks fans tonight. F-Boston and their bandwagon fans.

day old fries

April 29th, 2012
10:34 pm

…game mvp: hinrich

Jeff Schultz

April 29th, 2012
10:36 pm

Rondothimup — Rondo’s suspension is automatic if the bump of the official is deemed intentional. If it’s deemed accidental/inadvertent, then it’s still possible but not automatic. That’s my understanding of rule.

j

April 29th, 2012
10:36 pm

Schultz, ESPN is biased and i bet half the “experts” are from Boston. I don’t watch ESPN anymore as it is.

Reggie

April 29th, 2012
10:37 pm

The Rondo decision will say alot about the NBA Brass…he should be suspended. If it was Joe Johnson who bumped the ref,I would feel the same way. Charles Barkley and Shaq already started the spin story to save Rondo but the bottom line is he made contact with the ref and should be dealt with according to NBA guidelines which is a suspension.

Durrtydogg

April 29th, 2012
10:38 pm

ESPN suuuucks! And dont get me started on TNT. I thought they were based in Atlanta?? I cant tell. They all defended Rondo and made excuses for the Celtics. Charles Fartly always has something to say about us. I mean, what did he ever win? Please remind me. Its always ATL bashing and all we do is take it. No more. Durrtydogg will stand up for all that is GA! No more Mr. Nice guy. I guess Charles likes being in Atlanta. We all know how he looooves Dome!!!

TC

April 29th, 2012
10:38 pm

There is no way the bump was not intentional

Reggie

April 29th, 2012
10:39 pm

And Jason Collins did a great job of hustling and moving his feet on defense…

rollow lawson

April 29th, 2012
10:40 pm

Great win Hawks. Fans cheering for the visiting Celtics should have been jumped after the game. No where else in the NBA does this happen. Even Josh said something about the few empty seats during the post game press conference. Why won’t the cheap owners spring for t-shirts in stead of those flimsy towels? Heck, the Memphis organization sprung for towels and t-shirts. Atlanta (some fans and ownership) doesn’t appreciate what they have. This team, if completely healthy, could represent the East. Yeah, I said it!!!

Dr Todd

April 29th, 2012
10:40 pm

So glad to be an Atlanta Hawks fan! And especially happy for Josh Smith, our hometown boy. Its time for this town to get excited about this potential breakout team. Our Town need a champion to get behind. Sure would be nice if we could get on a run!

moorman

April 29th, 2012
10:40 pm

i said it during the off season. when the hawks let jamal crawford go and replaced him with a WHOLE bench, i knew that sund was doing SOMETHING RIGHT. this hawks is deeper than any hawks team in atlanta EVER, and that includes the hawks bench’s under fratello. if they dont blow it, they going to the conference finals………..

DHunt

April 29th, 2012
10:41 pm

Good win tonight. It should have been a great win, because the Hawks should have won by 30, but for some reason it took them the whole second half to score fewer points than they scored in the first quarter. Still can’t get coached up to a decent half court offense.

I’m going to have nightmares about Jason Collins getting 30 min a game. But seriously, no way Boston should be favored over the Hawks. We have a better bench, far more athleticism, and two players at least as good as Boston’s top two, and certainly younger. We should literally run them into the ground. But that won’t happen because the Hawks are too inconsistent. So we will have to struggle through a long series that they win, but nobody gives the Hawks any credit for because all to often they look so completely and totally lost. They should get through a series against Chicago the same way. Maybe looking a bit better if Zaza or Al (or heaven help us both of them) can come back for 10-15 minutes a game. Very little chance we can get coached up enough to win a series against Miami without an inside presence.

Enjoying it while it lasts.

tfd

April 29th, 2012
10:42 pm

shaq kenny and barkley are idiots. there was a foul on the last play. the celtic player grabbed josh on the floor. that’s what drew the whistle. yet they are oblivious to this or ignore it? idiot commentators. tnt has the worst commentators.

Phil Lunney

April 29th, 2012
10:44 pm

The Hawks played tough and the Celtics started to come back and get some calls: Garnet fouls Ivan on a 2 handed shot at the basket, no call; Ivan gets back and backs into Garnet who gets the call and taunts. But the Hawks kept coming, turns out the Celtics don’t like not getting the call either. I still hope Zaza makes it back during this series.

Reggie

April 29th, 2012
10:44 pm

Barkley and Shaq did everything except wave green and white pom poms…they said Josh didnt get fouled on that scramble play…WHAT?? When Josh went to the floor he had a headband on and by the time the whistle blew the head band was ripped off his head…i was waiting for someone to yell FATALITY

SWAT Native

April 29th, 2012
10:45 pm

Seeing Rondo suspended would restore my faith in the NBA. Not expecting it, though.

tfd

April 29th, 2012
10:48 pm

good point on the headband reggie

j

April 29th, 2012
10:54 pm

it’s hard to respect any of those sports commentators b/c they are all biased. i let a few boston fans have it tonight and i’ll let them have it again tuesday. half of them should be ashamed to wear a boston jersey and actually be born in the city of atlanta. how in god’s name can you support the opposing team when you’re from this city? until we have more loyal fans, this team won’t survive later rounds. Imagine all the “Heat fans” that will come out if we play them in the eastern finals … so much for playing at home … i hope one of the players calls them out like dave justice did for the braves right before they won their only world series.

Reggie

April 29th, 2012
10:56 pm

Thanks tfd…the video don’t lie…you can remove a headband without contact…unless you using tweezers and last time i checked…they weren’t. By the way you suck ESPN and TNT…GO HAWKS

Hard In The Paint Like Josh Smith

April 29th, 2012
10:56 pm

inside the nba crew needs to stfu…refs missed the call when willie drove the ball for the and 1 and they not even mentioning that

cpsman_atlanta

April 29th, 2012
10:56 pm

I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we all realize that Atlanta Spirit Group doesn’t care about us, and BOYCOTT THE HAWKS, PHILIPS ARENA, and ANYTHING ASSOICATED WITH ATLANTA SPIRIT GROUP FOREVER!!!! This team won’t win anything but a quick visit to the offseason. Sure, they won a game, so what. BOYCOTT ATLANTA SPIRIT GROUP!!!

phil

April 29th, 2012
11:00 pm

R. Royce

April 29th, 2012
11:06 pm

I’ve started watching, for the most part-FoxSportSouth, even if I know that the game is broadcast on TNT or ESPN or National TV. Why? Because at FoxSportsSouth, I know the announcers will spin their take honestly on what the Hawks are doing and what they need to do. Plus-they’ve been pretty consistant all year with their commentary. Who cares about bald heak Chuck, Shaq and Kenny anyway-and doormat Ernie.

Gwinnett Fred

April 29th, 2012
11:08 pm

Not sure what you people that are bashing the TNT announcers were watching, but I recall at least 3 times they showed on a replay and pointed out that the refs screwed the Hawks on a call and the Rondo deal, they showed it enough times before finally stating that yes, there was a little chest extention to Rondo’s bump.

And also, what is with this saying “until Atlanta gets some real fans” talk? If a couple hundred people come out and cheer for the other team that you somehow deduce were native Atlantans, how the hell does that signal that ALL of Atlanta has a lack of real fans?

I think a lot of you people just like to bitch and moan regardless of the situation (like ‘great win, but we should have won by 30′ talk).

Just enjoy a great win that happened with a great effort and contributions from all around the lineup and let’s go make it 2-0 come Tuesday!!!!

Najeh Davenpoop

April 29th, 2012
11:09 pm

Nice win. With that said, they won Game 1 against Chicago last year too, and that didn’t end well. They have been here before. Let’s not get too excited until they get somewhere they haven’t been. They are supposed to win this series, as far as I’m concerned.

TJL

April 29th, 2012
11:13 pm

It’s obvious since nobody on TNT or ESPN picked the Hawks everybody has to try and run for cover. If this goes pass 6 games I’ll be shocked. ATL, we simply have a better team. We dominated this game and there is no way that JJ is gonna shoot that bad on Tuesday.
Look folks we spanked them with Jason Collins at center…..not much else needs to be said!
Rondo should be suspended hands down! It is what it is…….you bump a ref you sit down at least one game.
Personally, I wish he plays so we can put the boots on them again without no excuses!

No Love 4 da Hawks

April 29th, 2012
11:19 pm

I watched the game on TNT instead of SSN, and it seems to me that the whole panel is making excuses for the Celtics. They just lost this one. We know that Kenny, Shaq, and especially(Chuck) have already penciled in Boston to move on to the next round. Let’s just give Atl credit, they laid a butt kickin down 2nite. Do it to “em” again, LET’S GO HAWKS!!!

Hawks to Soar?

April 29th, 2012
11:22 pm

“It has to be like what happened Sunday night”

getting contributions from everyone is really nice but I also don’t mind if they split up their wins via contributions and 1 man shows. Win game 1 via contributions, next 2 via Joe .. heh … heh … ehh … , Josh, etc. shows and then back to contributions

Thex

April 29th, 2012
11:25 pm

Christopher Mehegan-really? Are you off your meds? GO HAWKS!

JSS

April 29th, 2012
11:34 pm

Where’s the charming Phil tonight? Josh Smith had pretty good game wouldn’t you say?

Hawks

April 29th, 2012
11:40 pm

TNT crew was embarrassing in their analysis of that play. Chuck has never hidden his dislike for the Hawks. Shaq is a moron who should have never been given a job. So i can ignore when they start talking like idiots and not acknowledging that Bass was pretending Josh’s head was the ball BUT Kenny Smith has no excuse.

Kenny keeps referencing that Rondo was mad about a call that happened on the play before. Well that play happened at 2:40 left in the game and the scramble happened at 40 seconds left in the game. So unless the NBA switched to 2 min shot clocks without my knowledge for the playoffs that isnt possible. In fact I remember Pierce hitting a jumper on the play before the scramble.

Seattle Hawks fan

April 29th, 2012
11:45 pm

I’m tired of people saying it’s because of ray allen being hurt…. Ever hear of our allstar Horford or our bruiser Zaza?!!

OtistheDrunk

April 29th, 2012
11:52 pm

On the possible suspension…don’t forget Commish David Stern selected Rondo over our Josh Smith as this years replacement for injured Joe Johnson in the NBA All Star game..a bias there from Stern already maybe??? Just sayin…..BUT in our favor to hopefully suspend…. it was also Rondo who was suspended two games last month for throwing a ball at an official!! Yeah Yeah I know the decision should be based on Rondo’s behavior tonight but if, God forbid, Stern’s even “on the fence”, it could send a strong message you don’t abuse the refs… not even once let alone twice in one season!

beone

April 29th, 2012
11:53 pm

TNT talking heads are highly paid player has beens. They are there to entertain, not provide expert commentary. They are really just foolish jerks. And the studio heads realize that such drivel is what most of the audience wants to hear. So my thought is to ignore them and TNT.

tom

April 30th, 2012
12:18 am

hope the nba, espn and tnt get what they don’t want…..the hawks and heat in the ECF. go hawks.

sam

April 30th, 2012
12:21 am

Great game tonight!!!! Great team effort, but don’t forget one guy did have 22 points and 18 rebounds!! Not a word about that from the TNT idiots – not to mention Jeff’s efforts, the guy who is really a rookie this year!! I think we should throw those TNT nuts out of our town, along with that Christopher nut!!! Do these ex basketball “greats” even bother to watch the game? It appears NOT!!! And if rondo is not suspended, some kind of sicko conspiracy in the NBA should be investigated and revealed.
Anyway, with all that said, THANKS GUYS!! Thanks for playing great all season without Al, the last few weeks without Zsa Zsa and never giving up or complaining all the time (like some team in green, and that, unfortunately, includes their coach).
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!

cdog

April 30th, 2012
12:29 am

THE HAWKS AND FANS MUST TURN UP THE DEFENSIVE INTENSITY ON THE CELTICS. THEY SHOULD KEEP ATTACKING THEM.DON’T LET UP ON THEM.GO BACK TO BOSTON 2-0

Najeh Davenpoop

April 30th, 2012
12:58 am

“Why don’t we all realize that Atlanta Spirit Group doesn’t care about us, and BOYCOTT THE HAWKS, PHILIPS ARENA, and ANYTHING ASSOICATED WITH ATLANTA SPIRIT GROUP FOREVER!!!! ”

No sports team owners care about us. For that matter, no owners or CEOs of any private company care about us. It’s not that serious.

Dr. Warren

April 30th, 2012
12:59 am

They should give out red/blue tshirts and get rid of all that damn green. Or do a red-out like at the UGA games.

falCANS

April 30th, 2012
1:01 am

In Josh I Trust!!!! ECF here we come!!!

Dawgster

April 30th, 2012
1:11 am

Najeh: Are you Gearon, Jr.? You make so much sense with your posts but always end up stupidly with a Spirit post. let it be, bro!

CamiloAtlanta

April 30th, 2012
2:07 am

I’m surprised it was that close. Did anybody notice the strangling D we put on Boston? These broadcasters and Boston fans think this team that WON tonite is the Hawks of old. You guys were lucky you had a chance. The Boston team is full of old farts or idiots who think they deserve wins just for showing up. Man, you guys are disillusioned. It’s the Hawks time to shine!

pj

April 30th, 2012
2:36 am

Jeff – for all that is sacred in this world – will you please – please – PLEASE make sure that J-Smoove, JJ, Teague and the bunch know precisely how the “world leader in sports” ESPN is treating them? I know they watch SOME coverage – and you pointed to the 12 of 13 “experts” but 1. When covering D Rose’s injury, the commentators discussed the affect it would have on the Eastern Conference playoffs and never said the words Atlanta or Hawks – ONCE. Tonight – with the exception of Stuart Scott calling us “the dirty, dirty” – ESPN pretty much ignored the fact that Atlanta won the game by PLAYING BETTER – but instead blamed Rondo’s mini ref bump as the culprit. Jeff – Tell the guys it’s making us mad. Tell them we ALL feel disrespected. Tell em to get Boston’s Rondo=less rear ends on Tuesday night. (btw, watched 80 minutes of Sportscenter tonight – didn’t see a Braves highlight once.) ESPN is TMZ sports division and plays to the top 5 markets. It’s disgusting.

Atl teams = CHOKE

April 30th, 2012
2:40 am

First off, Good win for the Hawks.

Just a couple things that I noticed:

Joe Johnson, the leader and the highest paid player in the NBA, disappeared once again in the playoffs. Cant get far with this happening.

The Hawks blew a big lead. They still lack the killer instinct. They gotta play like the Heat, keep on going hard regardless of the score. The score should have been at least a 20 point blowout.

Atl teams = CHOKE

April 30th, 2012
2:41 am

Rondo should be tossed, No way was that accidental. He bumped the ref while mean mugging him all the way through.

pj

April 30th, 2012
3:55 am

Help your local NBA team Schultz. Let em know personally that ESPN blows them off like they’re the Jazz. Tell em to MAKE espn talk about em by beating the C’s. Use your influence Jeff. Tick off Josh. Garnett wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Cybernetic Angel

April 30th, 2012
4:11 am

+1 for PJ, I can’t stand how the Hawks dominated the entire game and somehow still the story is that the game was “in doubt” and Rondo “got screwed” frack that, the Hawks were in control the whole way, and it was only close because we had gotten into a little offensive rut. There is absolutely no reason to doubt that we would have won, Rondo or no Rondo.