By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Celtics Eliminate Hawks in Boston, 99-65
And the captain Paul Pierce told his teammates on the plane coming home from Game Six in Atlanta that he was happy the Celtics got the early game because “there was no way I could have sat at home today (Sunday) all day because of my anxiousness to get back on the court after Game Six from the way I been feeling the past couple of days.”
Anxiousness to get Game Seven under way is the reason the Celtics had so much energy from the opening tip until the final buzzer, as Boston finally eliminated the Hawks 99-65 in the best-of-seven series.
Paul Pierce and Celtics center Kendrick Perkins got the Celtics off to a good start in the opening frame. The Truth scored nine points on four-for-eight shooting and grabbed four rebounds, while Big Perk recorded eight points, six rebounds, and two blocks, leading the Celtics to a 27-16 advantage.
“Kendrick was phenomenal,” said Celtics coach Glen Doc Rivers. “I thought he set the tone defensively as much as anyone.”
“Perk did a great job holding the post down, holding the middle down,” praised Kevin Garnett. “He blocked a lot of shots today and was active.”
Big Perk finished the game with his second double-double of the series recording 10 points and 10 rebounds to go with a game-high five blocks.
“I just came out and set the tone. Leave it all out on the court,” said Perkins. “I think my team will feed off of me. I thought I came in with a great focus, and I wasn’t trying to go home.”
Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 22 points, but converted only seven of his twenty shots, including two-for-nine from three-point territory. Pierce also had eight rebounds, two steals, and three assists, including a nasty behind the back pass to Garnett for the and-1 (70-36).
“Paul set the tone for how we was going to play by going to the basket, being very aggressive early,” added KG, who finished the game with 18 points (nine-for-13) and 11 rebounds.
Once again, the Celtics dominated every facet of the game at home. They outscored the Hawks 60-30 in the paint; held the Hawks to a 29.3 field goal percentage; finished the game with 10 blocks to Atlanta’s five; scored 12 fast break points, while holding Atlanta to only two; and there was only one lead change the entire game, when Ray Allen drove to the lane and gave Boston a 4-3 advantage with 9:31 remaining in the quarter.
“We have played well, just not good in Boston,” said Atlanta coach Mike Woodson. “I still tip my hat to the locker room because they got a lot of respect from the city of Boston, the fans and the team. We went to Atlanta and made a series out of it. We went to Atlanta and did well.”
What a difference a home crowd makes, as the Celtics average margin of victory at home in the opening round was 25 points.
“Definitely the fans, but we didn’t come ready to play tonight,” admitted Hawks guard Joe Johnson, who finished Game Seven shooting five-for-17 from the field, but four-for-eight from the deep end.
“We are so inexperienced and this is Game Seven. Supposedly, it’s all out on the line tonight and we didn’t do nothing tonight. We acted like this was just a regular game and we didn’t come to play at all. They were more physical than us and they just really outplayed us tonight. We didn’t really put forth the effort.”
Speaking of not putting forth the effort, and not coming to play at all, where was Mike Bibby? “Where is Bibby?” is what 18,624 live witnesses chanted with 10:30 remaining in Atlanta’s season and Bibby on the bench. The Son of Henry finished Game Seven with two points on one-for-three shoorting. The Hawks point guard didn’t make his teammates too much better either, having only recorded two assists in 25 minutes.
Johnson, who scored a team-high 16 points, was the only player other than Salim Stoudamire to have recorded double figures in points. However, let it be noted that Stoudamire (10 points) saw a significant amount of scrub time.
In a series that has had more than a few physical, verbal, and nonverbal confrontations, cooler heads prevailed when Hawks forward Marvin Williams took Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo out of the air as Rondo attempted a layup. Williams said slamming Rondo to the groud was inadvertent, but was thrown out of the game anyway for a flagrant two foul.
“There have been some hard fouls in the series,” said coach Woodson. “Our guys are not out hurt anyone. It was just a hard play.”
Williams and Rondo have been friends since high school, having played against each other while the two were prep stars. So there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind who is close to basketball that the flagrant foul was much harder than intended:
“Like I said, I was trying to catch him,” said Marvin Williams. “I wasn’t trying to take him out. I would never try to hurt anybody. So, for them to kick me out; it was a good call. I saw it on TV and it did look pretty bad, so I can’t argue that at all. I just want Rondo to know that I would never try to hurt him.”
Coach Doc Rivers agreed with Williams and said it was the right call. But it was the force of the foul, and not the intent that got him ejected.
“Marvin Williams, you know is not s a dirty player at all. I know that as a fact. I really thought he tried to commit a hard foul but couldn’t catch him. It was a bad foul but it was just two good kids playing hard. I guess by the rule you have to throw him out.”
“I know Marvin is not a dirty player so I know he didn’t mean to do it,” said Atlanta native Josh Smith. “Watching it on TV it kind of looked like it was a dirty play. Marvin is not that type of player, so I know it was just a hard foul that just got out of his reach.”
The Celtics now must get ready to battle LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday. “LeBron is a great player. I think we should start there. It’s going to be a tough series,” said Doc Rivers. “They were in the Finals last year.”
“Beside LeBron, they have a lot of guys that can play,” said Kendrick Perkins. “They just came out of a tough Washington series. We just have to have another great focus. Go back and watch film, and just build from there.”
“They have a team over there beside LeBron. They have a team. We can’t just focus on one guy. We have to come out and play team ball. And know whoever is guarding LeBron, we are going to be there to help him.”