Notes on Celtics-Hawks Game 1

1190922388It was loud at the Garden last night. How loud? “I heard it in the locker room before the game,” Doc Rivers said. “I was in the bathroom… combing my hair.” (ba-dum)

It was loud, it was fun (Lucky was on stilts for the pre-game introduction, and he later got Big Papi to hold the ball for a trampoline dunk), and it was a blowout. It was about as perfect a start to their four-game series as the heavily-favored Celtics could have asked for.

After the jump, five thoughts and observations from last night’s Game 1

1. The Celtics are loose

Before the game, Doc was his usual jovial self. He expounded on the Bruins: “I watched the third period (of Game 6) and it was phenomenal.” He touched on his relationship with former Hawk teammate Dominique Wilkins: “I used to yell at him a lot. Usually when he was saying, ‘pass.'”

Post-game, though, it was Kevin Garnett who got off the best lines. Asked about his assault/mugging on Leon Powe after Powe nearly brought the rim down with a hellacious dunk on Mike Bibby, Garnett demurred: “Leon’s a grown-ass man, yo. Those were like high-fives to him.”

2. Doc may have shown his rotation

For as long as the Celtics can play with double-digit leads, they can continue to use their whole bench, but for the last month Doc has been hinting that he prefers an eight-man rotation for the playoffs. If last night is any indication, the top three off the bench will be Sam Cassell, James Posey, and Powe.

Tony Allen and PJ Brown also played in the rotation in the first half, which left Eddie House and Big Baby mostly stuck on the bench. It’s the good news/bad news scenario for Doc, who not only has seven legitimate bench players, he also has seven useful players, which means someone important will have to sit. That’s the opposite problem for Hawks coach Mike Woodson whose bench is essentially Josh Childress.

3 . Joe Johnson does just about everything

In the opening minutes of the game, Paul Pierce drained three 3-pointers over a rather blase Marvin Williams. So, Johnson switched to Pierce. In the third quarter, the Celtics kept running pick-and-rolls to get Mike Bibby covering Ray Allen, and Ray torched the smaller Bibby. Johnson didn’t leave Allen any more after that.

Without a true backup point guard, Johnson is asked to handle the ball whenever Bibby is out, and without anyone else on the wing who can get his own shot, Johnson has to create. Is now an appropriate time to wonder if Chris Wallace still likes Kedrick Brown better?

4. The schedule actually helps

The Celtics have been basically waiting for the playoffs to start for a month. It was somewhat fitting that, after all that buildup, they had to wait to play the late game Sunday. The emotion in the building was palatable about an hour before tip-off, and Garnett even alluded to having to catch himself in the tunnel before he came out on the floor. “I had to take a minute for myself,” Garnett said, “I’m going to enjoy this ride for as long as it goes.”

With all the buildup and all the hype, having two days to catch their breath before Game 2 may not be the worst thing.

5. These are extraordinary times

Hours after they rallied for an improbable win over Texas, various members of the Red Sox: David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia (in a Rajon Rondo t-shirt), and Kevin Youkilis, took in the game. John Henry did as well. Needless to say they were loudly cheered whenever their faces appeared on the scoreboard.

Tonight, the Bruins will play a completely unexpected Game 7 against Montreal. We all know what the Celtics are trying to do, and the Patriots own the seventh pick in the NFL draft on Saturday. This confluence of events moved one long-time media observer to conclude that if the Bruins win tonight, the Red Sox will be the fourth most-important team in the city this weekend.

We’re a long way from the bleak days of 1997.