BOSTON (AP)—Mike Bibby thought the Celtics’ crowd was loud in the playoff opener. He should get an even bigger earful in Game 2 after slamming the fans.
Bibby called Boston’s backers “fair weather” fans who jumped on the “bandwagon” when the Celtics grew from one of the NBA’s worst teams last season into the one with the best record in the league this season.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the smartest comment,” Kevin Garnett said Tuesday.
Bibby heard it from the crowd Sunday night when the Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks 104-81. He scored just five points on 2-for-10 shooting.
“It’s good that they know I’m here,” he said before practice Tuesday on the same floor where he missed all those shots. “Fair weather fans if you ask me.”
The Celtics drew decent home crowds last season despite their 24-58 record, the second-worst in franchise history. Bibby played in front of one of them Jan. 19 when he was with Sacramento, which won 96-91.
He scored 11 points in that game, Boston’s sixth straight loss in an 18-game slide that is the worst in franchise history.
Sunday’s crowd was “kind of loud at the beginning,” Bibby said calmly, “but a lot of these fans might be bandwagon jumpers. They try to get on this now. Because I played here last year, too. I didn’t see three-fourths of them so it might be that.
“I remember them having bags on their heads,” he said. “Are they the ones that had bags on their heads last year? It’s just a different look, but I guess that happens when you win.”
Winning one game in the best-of-seven series that resumes Wednesday night will be tough for the Hawks.
Top-seeded Boston had 29 more wins than eighth-seeded Atlanta, the biggest discrepancy between first-round opponents since 1996.
And Bibby, a 10-year veteran with the most playoff experience of any Hawk, got outplayed by Boston point guard Rajon Rondo, who had 15 points, nine assists and six rebounds in his postseason debut.
Several Celtics said they didn’t want to get into a verbal exchange with Bibby. Some of them, though, managed to slip in a few jabs.
“He said that?” center Kendrick Perkins said when told of Bibby’s remarks. “I mean, coming off a 2-for-10 night shooting, he would say something like that. … We’ve got the best fans in the world, so we don’t expect other players from other teams to like our fans.”
There are bandwagon fans in every sport, Paul Pierce said.
But Boston’s fans “really showed up for us even a year ago. We sold out a lot of games and they were there for us, so the guy really doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Pierce said. “These guys have been there for us all year long and with Bibby’s comments I hope they come even louder.”
But they’ll be facing the team that held opponents to the lowest field goal percentage in the NBA and the player, Garnett, who was named defensive player of the year Tuesday for the first time in his 13 seasons.
“They’re going to make some adjustments. We make some adjustments,” Garnett said. “If anything, this award comes right at the right time to be more defensive than ever.”
The Hawks will be in front of their home crowd for Games 3 and 4. There’s considerable doubt about their ability to avoid a sweep and return to Boston for a fifth game on April 30.
“It’s a seven-game series, so now you have a chance to redeem yourself,” Johnson said. “We’ve just got to relax.”
The young Hawks may have gotten rid of the jitters from the first playoff game of most of their careers, although rookie center Al Horford was their best player in the opener.
“I remember my first game in the playoffs going against John Stockton,” Bibby said. “I was nervous. I came out (and) threw the first pass away.”
Garnett also was a different player early in his career. Now he knows when to avoid controversy and take it out on opponents on the court.
So he brushed off Bibby’s shot at the fans.
“That’s Mike speaking his mind,” Garnett said. “If I was back in my younger days I probably would have said something, but I learned. Let your play do your talking.”