The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who is eagerly awaiting the Hawks-Celtics game. When he's not stenciling a green shamrock on his butt cheeks, he can be found holding Damon Wayans hostage at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
Bird droppings. It's finally official: There will be no first round upset of the Boston Celtics. And after yesterday's 99-65 spit-roasting, there's barely enough left of the upstart Hawks to fill a doggy bag.
Atlanta shot 29 percent from the field, scored only 26 points in the first half and had more turnovers (16) than assists (11). Other than Joe Johnson (16 points, 5-for-17), no other Hawks starter reached double-figures: Al Horford (8 points, 3-for-12), Marvin Williams (7 points, 3-for-11), Josh Smith (7 points, 3-for-11) and Mike Bibby (2 points, 1-for-3) must have gotten a little Celtic Pride in their eyes before the game. Their most accurate play of the night was when Williams clotheslined Rajon Rondo.
Boston, meanwhile, just took care of their business. Paul Pierce scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, Kevin Garnett added 18 points, 11 rebounds and a ball-busting backcourt screen on his good buddy Zaza Pachulia, and the Celtics built a lead so insurmountable that Eddie House and Big Baby Davis played almost the entire fourth quarter. Human victory cigar, anyone?
In the end, the result of the game came down to this: For all the hustle and heart they showed in Atlanta, the Hawks simply couldn't match the Celtics' in Boston. And their coach knew it. Mike Woodson said: "I wish we could have played all of our games in Atlanta. Nobody thought we had an opportunity to even win a game in this series. We battled them right to the end. We just didn't have it today."
They sure didn't. The Hawks looked de-energized and even intimidated. They weren't as physical on defense and they weren't nearly as aggressive in taking the ball to the hoop. Maybe it was KG's menacing gestures, or maybe they're just afraid of leprechauns...I know I am. Still, they shocked the Celtics and the world, and everybody in an Atlanta uniform should be proud. They have something special to build on for next season.
But they're still the Hawks, so they probably won't.
Somebody get a fresh coat of paint. Because the Lakers wore the hell out of the freethrow line yesterday. L.A. attempted 46 foul shots in all — 19 of which came in the fourth quarter — and Kobe Bryant hit a franchise playoff-record 21 (out of 23) in the Lakers' 109-98 Game 1 win over the Utah Jazz. And while you're looking for that paint, somebody better check the referees for whistle-lash.
Even Phil Jackson was amazed at the number of free throw attempts, especially Kobe's. "It's an incredible night to have 23 foul shots. I know that Utah's not going to be happy about it. We'll probably see about half that in the next game, if not less. So for him to do that, it was our biggest scoring threat of the night right there."
Mamba finished the game with 38 points, and got some able backup from Pau Gasol (18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists), Lamar Odom (16 points, 9 rebounds) and Sasha Vujacic (career playoff-high 15 points). Heck, even little old Derek Fisher chipped in with a career playoff-best 6 steals.
The Utah players looked a little gassed from Friday's series-clinching win over the Houston Rockets. They shot poorly from the field (38 percent) and from beyond the arc (4-for-19), committed several costly turnovers, and seemed unable to stay in front of their men...which lead to foul after foul after foul. Still, it wasn't all doom and gloom for the Jazz. Mehmet Okur had 21 points and 19 rebounds, Deron Williams almost had a triple-double (14 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists) and Carlos Boozer had a double-double (15 points, 14 rebounds). They also crashed the offensive boards (25) and had six players in double figures.
So if Utah can just hit some outside shots, play better defense and keep Kobe off the line, they have a pretty good chance of competing in this series.