Paul Pierce scored 24 points in 17 minutes as the Celtics raced out to a commanding lead and never looked back in a 101-79 win over the Atlanta Hawks Sunday night. With the win, the Celtics take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
If Game 3 was about the Celtics surviving, Game 4 was about establishing control.
The Celtics made 11 3-pointers in Game 4, more than they made during the first three games of this series combined. Pierce came into the game shooting 35 percent for the series, but he made 10 of 13 shots on his way to a dominant, efficient performance only slowed by what appeared to be a minor knee injury before halftime.
The Celtics exploded in the first half, shooting 64 percent from the field and putting up 64 points to lead by 23. After hitting just three field goals in Game 3, Pierce scored 18 points on 8 of 11 shooting before the break. The Hawks couldn't slow down Pierce, but the injury with eight minutes left in the second quarter forced Pierce to the locker room for evaluation.
Pierce returned in the second half to score six points in four minutes before finally shutting it down for the night. Right there with Pierce in the efficiency category was Rajon Rondo, who had 20 points, 16 assists, and just one turnover. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen also finished in double-figures.
The Hawks saw the returns of Josh Smith and Al Horford make little impact in the final score. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Atlanta.
1:25 4th quarter, Celtics 101-78: Gino time.
5:57 4th quarter, Celtics 98-71: Daniels, Dooling, Moore, Pavlovic, and Hollins.
9:42 4th quarter, Celtics 94-67: Rondo and Allen are still in the game, but it looks like Pierce and Garnett are done for the night.
End 3d quarter, Celtics 90-63: A strong finish from Rajon Rondo gives the fans something to cheer about as we head into the fourth quarter. Rondo made a big 3-pointer, then faked out everyone in the gym on his way to an uncontested layup. A bad foul by Greg Stiemsma on Marvin Williams gave the Hawks three points and probably has Stiemsma on the bench for the rest of the game.
3:19 3d quarter, Celtics 82-53: The game has ground to a halt as the Celtics are taking bad shots.
6:28 3d quarter, Celtics 80-45: Pierce scores six points in four minutes, then leaves the game with what is presumably the same injury he had in the first half. He's riding the exercise bike near the Celtics bench.
8:13 3d quarter, Celtics 79-43: Jeff Teague intentionally fouls Avery Bradley. That's the second hard foul Teague has given tonight, the first being on Brandon Bass in the first quarter.
10:05 3d quarter, Celtics 71-41: Paul Pierce starts the second half and hits his first attempt after the break, a 3-pointer. Rajon Rondo started the half with a three.
Halftime: Celtics 64, Hawks 41: Paul Pierce has 18 points, though he did not come back from the locker room after appearing to bang knees. Rajon Rondo has 13 assists, which is four more than the Hawks have as a team. Ray Allen has nine points.
2:53 2d quarter, Celtics 57-35: Josh Smith taking jumpers, Ray Allen taking jumpers. Advantage, Celtics.
7:57 2d quarter, Celtics 51-29: Pierce is now 8 of 11 for 18 points. The Hawks have as many turnovers as field goals (11).
Pierce appeared to bang his left knee after that last shot. He went back into the locker room with Celtics medical staff.
6:59 2d quarter, Celtics 46-27: Paul Pierce is on fire. He's got 15 points. Missed on a heat-check 3-pointer, but Brandon Bass collects the rebound and dunks. It's all working right now for the Celtics.
9:27 2d quarter, Celtics 37-24: Keyon Dooling's got two big jumpers, the last one a 3-pointer. Garnett and Bradley the Celtics starters on the floor.
End 1st quarter, Celtics 32-19: Garnett just abuses Horford in the post, and the Hawks center is forced to push Garnett from below as KG finishes the hoop plus the foul. Sure as heck looked injury-related there for Horford. KG is usually fired up, but he was fired up after that one.
Celtics shooting 67 percent to Atlanta's 41 percent in the first.
3:01 1st quarter, Celtics 25-15: Well how about that from Paul Pierce? He's got 10 points, the last two coming on an impossible little floater/fade from the foul line. Pierce was shooting 35 percent for the series. He's 5 of 7 today.
5:20 1st quarter, Celtics 19-11: Al Horford into the lineup for Atlanta. Will be checked by Greg Stiemsma.
7:56 1st quarter, Celtics 13-6: Ridiculous bounce pass from Rajon Rondo to Garnett for the dunk. Avery Bradley's also nailed two jumpers. Celtics are running their stuff and executing.
9:37 1st quarter, Celtics 6-4: Celtics have posted up twice. Paul Pierce has two field goals after making three in all of Game 3.
On the other side, Josh Smith was doubled and found Joe Johnson free in the corner. Smith then took it down the lane and dunked on Kevin Garnett. Totally different game in the early going.
Pre-game: Ray Allen and Avery Bradley are both in for the Celtics. Josh Smith is in for Atlanta. Sunday evening vibe here at the Garden, but the Celtics need to treat this game as they have the previous two.
Let's get it.