Rajon Rondo ejected as Celtics lose to Hawks
Rajon Rondo was ejected by official Marc Davis, after Rondo bumped Davis with his chest. / YouTube
(CBS/AP) ATLANTA - The Boston Celtics lost Game 1 and they may have lost their floor leader for Game 2.
Josh Smith scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds as the Atlanta Hawks built a big lead early, then held on for an 83-74 victory over the Celtics in their opener of the Eastern Conference playoffs Sunday night.
But this one will be remembered for what happened in the final minute, not the Hawks' blistering start. While complaining about a call, Boston star Rajon Rondo was ejected for bumping an official and faces a possible suspension when the teams meet again Tuesday night in Atlanta.
Rondo, for his part, said the contact was not intentional.
"I didn't intentionally chest bump him," Rondo said, according to SBNation Boston. "I know the rules."
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com writes that there's no telling what the league will do.
The Hawks, who led by as many as 19 in the first half, were clinging to a four-point lead when Rondo lost his cool with 41 seconds remaining. Boston's Brandon Bass was called for a foul on Smith tussling for a loose ball, with both players sprawled on the court out beyond the foul line. Rondo screamed at official Marc Davis, who quickly called a technical. Rondo then bumped Davis with his chest and was tossed out.
A suspension could be coming, too.
Rondo, who scored 20 points and dished out 11 assists, clearly appeared to stick out his chest to strike the official. That's a huge no-no and will almost surely draw the wrath of NBA Commissioner David Stern.
2012 NBA playoffs: Opening rounds
"It's out of my control," Rondo said. "Obviously, I want to be there for my teammates but other than that, it's out of my control."
Getting in some immediate lobbying, Celtics coach Doc Rivers saw things a bit differently than the replay showed. Not surprisingly, he doesn't think Rondo deserves a suspension.
"I'm always worried, but I would be surprised if that happens," Rivers said. "I thought Rondo was walking toward Marc, and Marc turned back toward him, and that's when Rondo bumped him. ... That's all it was, in my opinion. But we'll see."
Rondo had a similar take.
"Obviously I was upset about the call and I said some words to Marc. I deserved the first tech," Rondo said. "As I was walking, I thought he stopped. My momentum carried me into him. I even think I tripped on his foot."
At the beginning, the Hawks looked much quicker and faster than the aging Celtics. With every starter outside of Jason Collins contributing at least four points, Atlanta raced to a 20-6 lead with the game just over 5 minutes old. The Hawks twice pushed the margin as high as 19 points and settled for a 49-35 edge at halftime.
Smith totally outplayed Boston's Kevin Garnett over the first two quarters, going into the break with 15 points, 11 rebounds and two assists. Garnett had only two points on 1-of-9 shooting.
"He was an animal," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said of Smith. "When he's playing with that energy, he just makes us so much better."
Smith had to carry the load. The Hawks' other big gun, Joe Johnson, had a miserable night with 11 points on 3-of-15 shooting, committing more turnovers (four) than he made field goals. He was 0 of 9 from 3-point range.
The Hawks got sloppy with the ball and made only 19-of-54 shots after their blistering performance in opening quarter. That allowed the Celtics to edge back into the game, and it looked as though they might just pull off the comeback until Rondo's big blunder.
"We came out like our jerseys were going to win the game, because we're the Celtics," Rivers said. "You've got to play to win the game."
CLIPPERS 99, GRIZZLIES 98
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Chris Paul hit a pair of free throws with 23.7 seconds left, and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied from 27 down to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 99-98 Sunday night in the opening game of the Western Conference series.
The Clippers tied the NBA playoff record for largest deficit overcome at the end of three quarters, when they trailed by 21.
Rudy Gay missed a 15-footer with 0.9 seconds left after the Grizzlies squandered a lead they held for the first 47 minutes.
The Clippers lost Caron Butler to a broken left hand. But Nick Young scored 19 points off the bench, including three 3-pointers in the midst of the Clippers' 26-1 run. Paul finished with 14 points while playing a team-high 38 minutes despite a groin injury that kept him out of the regular season finale against the Knicks. Blake Griffin had 17 and Butler 12 before leaving the game.
Gay finished with 19 for Memphis. Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo had 17, and Marc Gasol scored 14.
Game 2 is Wednesday night.
LAKERS 103, NUGGETS 88
LOS ANGELES - Kobe Bryant scored 31 points, Andrew Bynum posted the Lakers' first playoff triple-double in 21 years with an NBA postseason record-tying 10 blocked shots, and Los Angeles thoroughly controlled the tempo in a playoff-opening victory over Denver.
Bynum, the Lakers' All-Star center coming off his best regular season, also had 10 points and 13 rebounds while incredibly blocking 11 percent of the Nuggets' 90 shots.
Bynum had the Lakers' first playoff triple-double since Magic Johnson in the 1991 NBA finals. Fellow 7-footer Pau Gasol added 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as the playoff-tested Lakers never trailed.
Danilo Gallinari scored 19 points for the sixth-seeded Nuggets, but the NBA's second-youngest playoff roster struggled to run.
Game 2 is Tuesday night.
SPURS 106, JAZZ 91
SAN ANTONIO - Tony Parker scored 28 points and San Antonio beat Utah to win its playoff opener for the first time in four years.
Tim Duncan added 17 points and 11 rebounds, helping the Spurs dodge another early playoff letdown. Despite boasting the No. 1 seed again, San Antonio hadn't won a Game 1 in its last six postseason series including the one that began a shocking first-round ouster last year.
Paul Millsap led Utah with 20 points. The Jazz hung close until the third, when the NBA's top 3-point shooting team began burying Utah with three in a two-minute burst to finish the quarter.
The Spurs have won 11 in a row.
Game 2 is Wednesday in San Antonio.
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