Let’s get the obvious out of the way: The Atlanta Hawks are younger, deeper and more athletic than our Boston Celtics. We knew that going in, we’ll know that going out. Regardless of how this series ends, Doc Rivers and the Celtics will need to find a way to overcome these deficiencies, both at home and on the road. Especially on the road. Tonight, the Hawks came out quicker and faster. They played a more relaxed, free-flowing game. And in the process they made our Celtics looked their age, with Atlanta building a 19-point lead and taking control of the game from the opening tip.
What else? Kevin Garnett was atrocious from the outset, going 1-9 from the field and playing the game a step slow. The Celtics settled for far too many jumpers from Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, and, in a season when the Celtics were the worst-rebounding team in league history, Boston couldn’t seem to keep the Hawks off the boards.
And yet, despite everything – in spite of everything – our resilient Celtics finally showed up and proved that they belong in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Too bad they waited so long to get started. They were able to cut the lead to five points on two occasions late in the fourth, but a defensive lapse on the perimeter led to a Jeff Teague 3-pointer to extend the Hawk advantage to 76-68 with 3:06 remaining. The Celtics cut the lead once more, to four points with less than two minutes remaining, and that’s when things took a seriously bad turn:
A loose ball, a scrum, a diving Kevin Garnett. Bodies on the floor, battle for possession, and a whistle. And suddenly, Rondo gets tossed.
And just like that, Rondo’s chest-bump of the ref puts his availability for Game 2 in serious jeopardy.
Don’t get me started on NBA refereeing. Makeup calls, calling the game tight early and the swallowing the whistles late; one set of standards for superstars and another for rookies and the general rank and file. Imagine if the NFL ran it’s officiating like that. Touching a quarterback in the first quarter results in a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty, and then there’s no call for a mugging in the fourth quarter.
The hope is that the NBA league office comes to its senses. A whistle during a scrum in the fourth quarter with the game on the line? Really? Really? To quote John McEnroe, you cannot be serious.
Rondo needs to play in Game 2.
Let’s just hope the league sees it our way.