Celtics lose ... in more ways than one

749474.jpg

Celtics lose ... in more ways than one

From Comcast SportsNet
ATLANTA (AP) -- 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. "I didn't intentionally chest-bump him, but that's what it appears to be," Rondo said. 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. "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." Smith said he was definitely fouled as he scrambled for the loose ball with Bass. "That was the right call they made," Smith said of the potentially series-altering play. "I'm not sure what happened with Rondo. That will be up to the league to see what he did wrong. You never know what's going to happen, but we'll definitely factor him in going to tomorrow." Garnett bounced back to put up 20 points and 11 rebounds. Paul Pierce had only 12 points, going 5 of 19 from the field and missing all six of his 3-point attempts. "For us to win, I have to be a better player," Pierce said. "I was a really big culprit." Both teams were short-handed. Celtics guard Ray Allen missed a playoff game for the first time in his career, watching from the bench in a suit and tie because of an ailing right ankle. He would've already had surgery if it was earlier in the year, but the 36-year-old member of Boston's Big Three is hoping to heal in time for possibly his last hurrah in Beantown. The Hawks, meanwhile, started third-stringer Collins at center. Al Horford missed most of the year with a pectoral injury and has been ruled out for the entire series, and the guy who took his place, rugged Zaza Pachulia, went down late in the regular season with a sprained left foot. Pachulia famously went forehead-to-forehead with Garnett during an opening-round series in 2008, and the Hawks wondered how they would fare without the Georgian's toughness. Just fine, it turned out. Of course, the teams were much more closely matched heading into this series than they were in their last playoff meeting. In 2008, the Celtics won 66 games and were the top seed in the East, setting up for a run to their most recent NBA championship. The Hawks were the eighth seed, a team that went 37-45 and made the postseason for the first time in nine years. Still, they managed to push the Celtics to seven games. This time, Boston won the season series 2-1, the three games decided by a total of 10 points, and Atlanta finished one game ahead in the conference standings to earn home-court advantage. Now the big question is: Will Rondo get to play in Game 2? "I don't think it was on purpose," Pierce said, "but it's up to the league." NOTES: Allen and Pachulia are both listed as day-to-day. ... The Hawks have never beaten Boston in the playoffs since moving to Atlanta in 1968, losing six straight postseason meetings. ... The teams met four times in the finals when the Hawks were based in St. Louis. Boston won three of those series, the Hawks only playoff win over the Celtics a 4-2 triumph to capture the title in 1958.

Quick Links

Morning tip: Bradley Beal regains 3 in time for big game vs. Celtics

Morning tip: Bradley Beal regains 3 in time for big game vs. Celtics

Bradley Beal ran into two of the NBA's better perimeter defenders in Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Early on in Monday's game at the Charlotte Hornets, he faced both simulatneously as they forced the ball out of his hands which led to other Wizards teammates beating them. 

The Wizards (24-20) went up 2-0 in the season series, and more importantly for Beal he ended a streak of 20 consecutive missed three-pointers by making 4 of 9 in a 109-99 victory. 

"You're going to through stretches of the season where you're not going to shoot the ball well," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after Beal, who had early foul trouble, finished with 18 points. "I like the way he responded in that second half. Sometimes it takes a shot (to go in) to change your mojo. I thhought he had good looks the last two or three games."

Beal shot 4-for-14 and 4-for-13 in the previous two games of the road trip. He was 6-for-16 Monday, a day after he needed an MRI on his left knee following a hard fall in a loss to the Detroit Pistons. Beal's left foot also was sore. 

[RECORD: 5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Hornets]

True to form when the Wizards' role players do well, it comes off making defenses pay for committing so much attention to Beal. Markieff Morris benefitted most with 23 pointts.

Beal ended his drought at 2:31 of the second quarter, giving the Wizards a 55-43 lead. He had consecutive 26-foot threes in the third quarter for a 72-57 lead. 

The Wizards can take a 2-1 season series lead on the Boston Celtics, who are at Verizon Center tonight [6:30 p.m. on CSN]. The Wizards finally have a winning record after a multiple-game road trip for the first time by beating Charlotte. Now they return home to face an opponent that they will be extra motivated to face.

Other than what happened earlier this month when both teams had to be separated at the end of Boston's home victory, and while both teams retreated to their locker rooms, there are other matters at stake.

"We've won 13 straight at home," Beal said. "That's on the line for us."

[RELATED: Wizards plan to wear all black to Celtics game]

 

Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins' Gruden's fate hinges on Manusky, McCloughan

Need to Know: Redskins' Gruden's fate hinges on Manusky, McCloughan

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 24, 36 days before the NFL franchise tag deadline.

Timeline

Days until:

NFL free agency starts 44
—NFL Draft 93
First Sunday of 2017 season 229

Gruden's fate rests on Manusky, McCloughan

In his press conference the day after the Redskins lost to the Giants to end their season, Jay Gruden talked about the decision-making process that would unfold if there were changes in the coaching staff.

“Ultimately I would think it is my call – our call,” he said. “Bruce [Allen] will have some input, Dan [Snyder] will have some input, Scot [McCloughan] will have some input, but from a staff standpoint, I like to think I have a lot of pull on that one.”

That doesn’t make it sound like he was completely free to replace the fired Joe Barry and new Rams head coach Sean McVay with whomever he chose. Others could make suggestions and have input and possibly veto power.

The decision to make Greg Manusky the defensive coordinator likely was influenced by and/or had the approval of, McCloughan. Manusky ran the defense in San Francisco when McCloughan was the GM there. McCloughan was instrumental in getting Manusky to come to the Redskins to coach the outside linebackers a year ago, after he was fired as the Colts’ defensive coordinator.

Related: Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Greg Manusky

Having McCloughan’s approval for the hire provides Gruden with some degree of security. If it doesn’t work out, if the Redskins upgrade the talent on defense and still don’t get better results, the heat will be on McCloughan as well as Gruden.

Still, Gruden will be the one in the spotlight this season. When the annual media lists of coaches on the hot season in 2017 come out, Gruden is sure to be atop many of them. It’s simple math, really. In Gruden’s three seasons the team has gone 4-12, 9-7, and 8-7-1. A return to double-digit loss territory would be a regression and there would be legitimate concern over whether Gruden is the guy who can make progress and then maintain it and build on it.

Did Gruden get his first pick for the job? Probably not. It seems that Gus Bradley was the favorite, having built the aggressive Seattle defense and having ties with McCloughan from there and with Gruden and Allen from Tampa Bay. But he decided to head west and take over the Chargers’ defense, perhaps wondering about Gruden’s job security. If Bradley didn’t top the list, then Gruden’s top choice probably was Cincinnati defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. But he is under contract and the Bengals denied permission for him to talk about making a lateral move.

More Redskins: Redskins stay in house

Wade Phillips decided to go to the Rams, who have decidedly better defensive personnel than the Redskins, before he had a chance to meet with Washington. We’re not sure how seriously Gruden pursued Phillips but it’s possible that he would have taken him over Manusky if he had the chance. That means that Manusky was at best Plan C or Plan D.

But that’s water under the bridge. Gruden’s fate now lies in the hands of Manusky and in the hands of McCloughan, who must set out to get the new defensive coordinator a significant talent upgrade. If Gruden gets a better defense and can maintain a top offensive attack (given Kirk Cousins’ contract status, he needs McCloughan’s help there, too) and the Redskins can take the next step he should be expecting to start serious extension talks in 2018.

If the Redskins spin their wheels and end up around .500 again or if they regress and post double-digit losses like they did for five out of six years from 2009-2014 they could be cleaning house and starting over again. That wouldn’t be a good scenario for anyone. The organization is counting on Manusky, who was Plan C, and McCloughan to help Gruden get things on track.

Tandler on Twitter

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.