Al Horford didn't look anything like a rookie in his playoff debut.As it is, he was the only Hawks starter to thoroughly acquit himself Sunday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoff series against Boston.
He led Atlanta in points and rebounds with 20 and 10 found a silver lining after his first postseason loss since 2005: he and his teammates get another shot -- at least three, in fact -- against the Celtics.
"Obviously, the similarity (in college and pro postseasons) is a different atmosphere from the regular season; you can feel it in the air," he said after Atlanta's 104-81 loss. "But as far as other differences, you have to come back and play. It's the best-of-seven here. In school, our mentality was win or go home. Here, we have a chance to redeem ourselves and play another game."
For that to happen, Horford will need more help Wednesday.
He made 7-of-10 shots Sunday, but his teammates combined to make 22 of 66, and his fellow starters were good on just 14 of 49 (28.6 percent).
You wouldn't have known from watching Sunday that Horford is a rookie center, that he's playing out of position, or that the natural power forward was in his first NBA postseason game.
Either he's ahead of his time, or he had so close a look at the problem that it was impossible to miss.
"We definitely didn't shoot the ball," he said. "We would have liked to have made some open looks."
CELTICS 104, HAWKS 81: The Hawks' game plan was to jump on the Celtics early and force them out of their comfort zone.
It never happened.
That early strategy gave way to a mad scramble that would last the entire night for the Hawks, who left TD Banknorth Garden on the bloody-lipped side of a 23-point blowout Game 1 loss Sunday to the mighty Celtics.
"We never played like the aggressor, like the team with nothing to lose, which is what we've been talking about since we knew this matchup was coming," said Hawks reserve guard Josh Childress. "They overwhelmed us in spurts and we just never responded as a unit."
The Hawks never did find an offensive rhythm -- Mike Bibby was a brutal 2-for-10 from the floor and finished with just five points and one assist -- or answer for the Celtics' suffocating half-court defense.
Rookie center Al Horford was the only Hawks starter to play well, finishing with 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the floor, 10 rebounds and a blocked shot in playoff debut.
The rest of the Hawks' starters shot a combined 14-for-49 from the floor in a game in which they trailed by as many as 27 points before it was over.
"I thought our guys weathered the storm early," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "The guys were anxious to start the game but that is expected. We just can't have our starters playing the way they did tonight. We will watch tape and try to clean up our offense. We need to regroup and bounce back on Wednesday."
Game 2 is set for Wednesday night before the same raucous sellout crowd that kept the noise at a fever pitch for most of Sunday night's game.
"You either come in here ready to play," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said, "or go home."