I have no real explanation for why the Celtics came out as focused and energetic as they did Monday night, but the result was the flex of some serious muscle over a team that's been a thorn in Boston's side over the last couple of years. Boston led wire-to-wire, roaring to a 39-13 lead after the first period, making 18 of 25 shots in the quarter and out-rebounding the Hawks 16-3. They didn't slow down much in the second quarter: at halftime, Boston led 64-42, was shooting better than 62 percent from the floor, and held a 26-10 rebounding edge. (Though to be fair, a big rebounding disparity is bound to happen when you're making nearly everything you put up and the other team isn't).
The final numbers aren't as impressive, but that's because the second- and third-string got extended run in the fourth quarter and cooled off a bit. Speaking of the third string, rookie Avery Bradley got his first six minutes and eleven seconds of NBA playing time, immediately making his presence felt upon entering the game by grabbing a rebound, drawing a foul, and hitting two free throws. (Ok, so the shot he rebounded was taken by Jamal Crawford, the guy Bradley was supposed to be guarding.) Bradley had an up and down game, with a nice assist to Luke Harangody on the pick and pop and a great steal. He followed that steal up by traveling while airballing a pullup jumper on the ensuing fast break, however, so it wasn't all good. Still, Bradley looked composed and not overwhelmed by the NBA game in his first action, which is not something you can say for all rookie point guards.
Really, everyone did something well tonight. Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal each had points-rebounds double-doubles in limited minutes. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined to make 14 of 21 shots from the field. Nate Robinson hit four three-pointers and handed out ten assists, which proves only that you or I could get ten assists in the NBA if our teammates were hitting shots. Harangody made a shot. Von Wafer actually looked like someone capable of putting the ball in the basket, and finished with six points. Glen Davis did some Glen Davis things, which unfortunately is starting to include missing a bunch of jumpers, but also includes getting rebounds and playing good defense. Rajon Rondo, out for a second straight game with a mild hamstring injury, wore a very dapper suit, and wore it well. Semih Erden caught the ball with two hands on at least one occasion. And Delonte West and Marquis Daniels each had a vicious block on Zaza Pachulia, which is great, because everyone hates Zaza. (West and Daniels actually combined for five blocked shots between them, one of the stranger statistical anomalies I've seen in this young season.)
Looking over that last paragraph, I think bullets would have been a better formatting choice.
So, yeah, great overall effort all around. Atlanta was certainly complicit, failing to challenge shots on defense and run patient offense from the get-go. After they got into a big hole, they showed little interest in digging out of it. But make no mistake -- it was Boston's effort, intensity, and execution that put this one away early.