The hype for the Hawks-Celtics showdown started more than an hour before tip-off. Rapper Lil Jon and his big voice were contained in the green room just off the court at Philips Arena, taping in-game video segments to fire up Hawks fans.
It was just Lil Jon, his microphone and a video camera (not to mention his white-framed sunglasses and rope of a gold chain around his neck).
"C'mon Hawks fans, make some nooooiiiiiisssse," he bellowed, with biceps-bulging effort that radiated from the tip of his Hawks cap to the bottom of his sneakers.
When the session was over, the Atlanta native smiled with pride.
"I can hype up anything; I can hype up oranges," he said, then went back into his outdoor voice. "Ladies and gentleman, the best orange you will taste in your life. California seeeeeed-lessssss."
But on a night like Wednesday, the Hawks didn't need that much hype help, actually. Sure, they had Lil Jon on the pregame introduction mike and Ludacris performing at halftime, but mainly, they had the Celtics in town.
The Celtics made their first visit to Philips Arena since last year's electric first-round playoff series when they survived the Hawks in seven games.
The anticipation of having the defending NBA champions return to the building where they lost three games in that series was palpable --- even to the coolest and calmest of the Hawks players.
"It seems as if everybody is a little bit more alive today," Hawks captain Joe Johnson said.
The fan base sure was. It was the fourth sellout of the year, with 18,729 in attendance. There were enough celebrities on hand to fill out their own section.
It was hard to take two steps at courtside or up in the suite halls without running into a rapper or an Atlanta Falcon. Jerious Norwood, Chris Houston, D.J. Shockley, Ovie Mughelli, Chevis Jackson and Brent Grimes were just a few of the Falcons in attendance.
Mughelli and Grimes were mixing in a suite with former NBA greats Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Bernard King.
But Mughelli kept close watch on the game. He became a Hawks fans his first year in Atlanta last spring, watching these teams in the playoffs.
"Watching how hard they fought, and how bad they wanted it, and how they didn't care if it was the Celtics or the Chicago Bulls in the Jordan era, they were going to win," the Falcons fullback said. "I fell back in love with the game. It was awesome."
Mughelli said the Hawks inspired a blog post he wrote on yardbarker.com, predicting a similar turnaround for the Falcons.
"People thought I was crazy," Mughelli said. "I was so impressed with what the Hawks were doing, I thought we'd do the same thing next year: shock the world."
At the end of the day, the celebrities enjoyed just being fans.
Ludacris, who had been at the Hawks-Cavaliers game on Saturday as well, performed a song off his new "Theatre of the Mind" album at halftime.
He also pulled out the familiar "Get Out the Way," making an effort to engage the fans on all sides from the court.
"You're performing to a 360-degree crowd, so it's a little crazy," said Ludacris, who was looking forward to joining Lil Jon in a court-side seat shortly thereafter. "Right after halftime, I'll be sitting back in my seat and I'm good."