BOSTON - Kevin Garnett stood and faced the hometown crowd immediately after taking a behind-the-back pass from Paul Pierce and scoring to put the Boston Celtics ahead by 36 points with an entire quarter left in the game. "It's over!" Garnett screamed. "Now it's over!"
2008 NBA playoffs
- Celtics stymie LeBron, nip Cavs
- Goodman: LeBron at his worst
- Rosen: How Kobe finally won the MVP
- Hill: Who's the best big for Kobe?
- Rosen: Hornets making the right moves
- Kahn: Magic won't go quietly
- Kriegel: Lakers finding ways to win
- Hench: East is where action is
- Kahn: Deadline deals were duds
- Western Conference playoff central
- Eastern Conference playoff central
- Conference semifinal action
- Best shots from the first round
- Kobe receives his first MVP award
- Johnson: Kobe deserves what he got
- Johnson: How Lakers won Game 1
Maybe the emotion or the lack of sleep got to Garnett, but that's still no reason for the throat-slashing gesture, the profanity or the histrionics that followed.
Beating the Atlanta Hawks even in a 99-65 rout after being taken to the limit by the No. 8 seed was certainly not worthy of such boasting. Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen haven't exactly had oodles of experience in winning playoff series of late, but this was still the Atlanta Hawks, right?
The Celtics were the elite team in the NBA throughout the regular season. They won 66 games and went into the postseason with home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. This one should have been history in four, maybe five games at most.
Instead, it took Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen all seven to dispose of an Atlanta team that won a mere 37 games and wouldn't even have been in the playoffs had it not been playing in the Eastern Conference.
"The pressure of this will probably pay off later," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
To be sure, the Celtics' struggles against the Hawks will be forgotten if Boston can get past LeBron and the Cavs in the second round and roll through the playoffs. It'll be as if nothing ever happened.
But for now, it certainly poses questions about the Celtics.
First and foremost, can Boston win on the road?
"For us to be an elite team and one that makes it to the championship," Pierce said, "we can't have any nights off, we can't take plays off and we've got to be able to get it done on the road."
If the deciding game had been in Atlanta instead of Boston, the result of this series might have been different. It certainly wouldn't have been the drubbing that the Celtics plastered on the Hawks on Sunday afternoon.
"I knew we were going to take care of business tonight," said Pierce, who led the Celtics with 22 points.
That's because Pierce was able to sleep in his own bed and take the court in the friendly confines of the TD Banknorth Garden.
Boston earned the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs and Rivers' club wasted little time in needing to utilize it. In three road games, the Big Three came up with the Big Zero in terms of wins.
Back at home, it was admittedly a much different story.
This one was basically over from the moment it began. The Hawks were held to just 26 points in the first half. No one had ever scored fewer in the first 24 minutes against the Celtics.
In fact, the only suspense came when the officials conferred on whether to eject Marvin Williams after a hard takedown of Rajon Rondo early in the third quarter.
It was the best move Williams or any of his teammates made the entire game, because it enabled him to avoid further embarrassment by getting off the floor for the remainder of the game.
"We didn't come ready to play tonight," Joe Johnson said. "We are so inexperienced and this is Game 7. Supposedly, it's all out on the line tonight and we didn't do nothing. We acted like it was just a regular game and we didn't come to play at all."
Boston came out with a fury and quickly ended any hopes the eighth-seeded Hawks had of pulling off arguably the biggest upset in NBA playoff history. Only one No. 8 seed has knocked off a top seed in a seven-game series, and it came a year ago when Golden State got past Dallas.
Pierce was aggressive. The Celtics got back in transition, defended and also dominated on the glass. It was a completely different team than the one that went out on the road and lost three straight in Atlanta.
"When we play like that, it's pretty hard to beat us," Garnett said.
The problem is that the Celtics played like that for four games and played like the Memphis Grizzlies for three.
Is it because Boston hadn't played a meaningful game in more than a month, or that this current team hasn't played in the postseason with one another? Or just that the young, athletic Hawks matched up well against the Celtics?
"Atlanta played real well at home and I'm not going to discount anything they did," Garnett said.
Maybe, but they don't have LeBron.