After winning a pair of tight games to take the series advantage, the Boston Celtics put the Atlanta Hawks on the brink of elimination with a dominant 101-79 win in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal. Playing at full strength for the second straight game, the Celtics took care of their home court behind outstanding efforts by Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. They propelled the Celtics to a 23-point halftime lead and never gave the Hawks a chance to come back.
This is the kind of game the Celtics were waiting for from Rondo. While his overall numbers were outstanding in Game 3, he didn't really hit his stride until the fourth quarter and overtime. In Game 4, he dissected the Hawks early and never let up. He finished with 20 points, 16 assists, just one turnover and three steals in 35 minutes.
Pierce started the game shooting hot and got into a groove quickly. He knocked down ten of 13 shots for 24 points in fewer than 17 minutes of court time. He walked off the court gingerly in the first half after he and Josh Smith got their feet tangled in the second quarter, but he was able to return and continued his hot night in the third quarter. Boston's huge lead, which ballooned to as many as 37 points, allowed Pierce to rest for most of the second-half rather than risk his availability going forward.
Beyond the Celtics' phenomenal offensive performance, the key to the series continues to be the dominance of their defense and the inability of the Hawks to score in the half-court game. The Celtics have turned the ball over just 44 times through the first four games of the series and since the midpoint of Game 1, they have done a great job of limiting the Hawks' opportunities in transition.
During the regular season, the Hawks were the NBA's sixth most effective team at forcing turnovers, but going against a disciplined veteran team playing its most important basketball of the season, that strength hasn't been able to manifest itself. If they are unable to force more turnovers and they can't find a way to revitalize their transition game, the Hawks' season will likely end in Game 5.
Game 5 will take place in Atlanta on Tuesday, May 8, at 8:00 p.m.
Boston Celtics, Yahoo! Sports
William Menna is a native New Englander and longtime Boston sports fan.
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