YouTube Credit: mrtrpledouble10
TALK ABOUT A tough playoff opener for the Boston Celtics.
One game, possibly two big losses.
There was the score, of course, which went in favor of Atlanta. With Josh Smith scoring 22 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, the Hawks built a big lead early and held on for an 83-74 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoffs last night.
But what happened in the hectic final minute could have a huge impact on Game 2, and possibly the entire series.
Boston star Rajon Rondo objected to a foul call on one of his teammates, chest-bumped the official who made it, and was quickly sent to the locker room. Now, all the Celtics can do is nervously await the likely wrath of NBA Commissioner David Stern, who’s never been too lenient on anyone striking his refs.
“I didn’t intentionally chest-bump him, but that’s what it appears to be,” Rondo conceded.
The Hawks, who led by as many as 19 in the first half, were clinging to a four-point lead when Rondo lost his cool with 41 seconds remaining. Boston’s Brandon Bass was called for a foul on Smith tussling for a loose ball, with both players sprawled on the court out beyond the foul line. Rondo screamed at official Marc Davis, who called a technical. Rondo then bumped Davis with his chest and was ejected without hesitation.
“It’s out of my control,” said Rondo, who up to that point had been a huge bright spot for the Celtics with 20 points and 11 assists. “Obviously, I want to be there for my teammates, but other than that, it’s out of my control.”
Lobbying for leniency, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he doesn’t think Rondo deserves a suspension.
“I’m always worried, but I would be surprised if that happens,” Rivers said. “I thought Rondo was walking toward Marc, and Marc turned back toward him, and that’s when Rondo bumped him. … That’s all it was, in my opinion. But we’ll see.”
Rondo had a similar take.
“Obviously I was upset about the call and I said some words to Marc. I deserved the first tech,” Rondo said. “As I was walking, I thought he stopped. My momentum carried me into him. I even think I tripped on his foot.”
Josh Smith said he was definitely fouled as he scrambled for the loose ball with Bass.
“That was the right call they made,” Smith said. “I’m not sure what happened with Rondo. That will be up to the league to see what he did wrong. You never know what’s going to happen, but we’ll definitely factor him in going to tomorrow.”
Both teams were short-handed. Celtics guard Ray Allen missed a playoff game for the first time in his career, watching from the bench in a suit and tie because of an ailing right ankle. He would’ve already had surgery if it was earlier in the year, but the 36-year-old member of Boston’s Big Three is hoping to heal in time for possibly his last hurrah in Beantown.
The Hawks, meanwhile, started third-stringer Collins at center. Al Horford missed most of the year with a pectoral injury and has been ruled out for the entire series, and the guy who took his place, rugged Zaza Pachulia, went down late in the regular season with a sprained left foot.
Now the big question is: Will Rondo be available for Game 2?
“I don’t think it was on purpose,” Pierce said, “but it’s up to the league.”
- Boston Celtics 74-83 Atlanta Hawks (Atlanta lead 1-0)
- Utah Jazz 91-106 San Antonio Spurs (San Antonio lead 1-0)
- Denver Nuggets 88-103 LA Lakers (Lakers lead 1-0)
- LA Clippers 99-98 Memphis Grizzlies (Clippers lead 1-0)