Josh Smith scored 22 points and hauled in 18 rebounds to lead the Hawks to an 83-74 win over the Celtics in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at Philips Arena in Atlanta.
Rajon Rondo had 20 points and 11 assists but lost his cool after a foul call on a loose ball scramble with 41 seconds left. He yelled at and bumped official Marc Davis. He faces a potential suspension for Game 2 Tuesday night.
Brandon Bass and Smith were in a scramble for a loose ball and Bass appeared to rake Smith across the face when Davis called the foul on Bass. Rondo thought it was a jump ball situation. Rondo lost control and went after Davis before bumping him with his chest and getting ejected.
Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 12 rebounds but the pair had little offensive support as Paul Pierce went just 5-for-19 from the field and finished with 12 points.
Avery Bradley went just 4-of-12 and the Celtics shot just 39 percent from the field. The Hawks were without Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia, and Joe Johnson shot just 3-for-15 from the field.
The game couldn't have started much worse for the Celtics. They came out ice cold while the Hawks came out hitting seven of their first nine shots, helping them race out to a 29-12 lead. Rondo led the C's offensive effort with 12 points in the first quarter, but the rest of the team could never get going. Still, the Celtics cut the Hawks' lead to 13 at 31-18 after one quarter, and the Celtics showed signs of getting back into the game, even without the services of Ray Allen, out with a chronically sore left ankle after his injury in early March.
The Celtics briefly got the deficit under double digits at 34-25 before the Hawks scored the next eight points. The Celtics were led by Rondo's 12 points, but Garnett and Bradley combined to make just 4-of-19 shots from the field and the C's trailed 49-35 at the half.
The Celtics fell behind by as much as 19, 64-45, late in the third quarter before outscoring the Hawks 8-1 to end the third quarter and trail by just 10, 65-55, heading into the fourth.
The Celtics used a 7-0 run late in the fourth to cut the Atlanta lead to five, 71-66. But Smith hit a jumper to answer. Bass responded with a jumper with 3:28 left to narrow the lead down to five again, 73-68. But with the shot clock winding down, Jeff Teague drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing to build the lead back up to eight, 76-68, with just over three minutes left.
Garnett hit a jumper on the next possession to trim the deficit back to six, but Pierce missed an open 3-pointer and Teague hit a runner in the lane to push the margin back to eight. Pierce hit a jumper with 1:01 left to cut the Atlanta lead to four, 78-74.
Game 2 is set for Tuesday night in Atlanta before the series shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4 Friday and Sunday nights at TD Garden.