Hawks don't get the point

BOSTON --- One of the few spots at which the Hawks seemed to have an edge over the Boston Celtics was point guard, where Atlanta starts Mike Bibby.


After the way Rajon Rondo played in the first playoff game of his career, even that may be in doubt.

The speedy Rondo had 15 points, nine assists and six rebounds in Boston's 104-81 win Sunday night. Bibby, a 10-year veteran with 51 playoff games before this season, managed just five points, one assist and three rebounds.

Before the series, Boston coach Doc Rivers delivered a message to all his players: "Be a star in your role. That's the way you can help us," he recalled Monday.

That's what Rondo did in the opener of the best-of-seven series that resumes Wednesday in Boston.

The Celtics' 66-16 record was the best in the NBA this season. The Hawks won 29 fewer games but improved after they obtained Bibby from Sacramento in February.

Still, Atlanta is a huge underdog in the series after finishing eight games under .500 at 37-45.

Rondo progressed as a leader who could get the ball to Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and he has continued that in the playoffs.

"I was pretty comfortable," he said. "I didn't really get nervous; I tried to approach it like a regular-season (game), but I knew the intensity would be a lot higher."

Rondo was one of the few young players the Celtics kept after they sent four of them to Minnesota in a 7-for-1 trade for Garnett last summer.

Before the series, Garnett, Pierce and Allen gave Rondo some advice, and it certainly didn't hurt.

"I thought he was very poised," Garnett said. "I think the second half of the season he has been a lot more accepting of his role, a lot more of a general and, in a sense, more of a leader."

Atlanta's Josh Smith, who finished with six points, said he and Bibby discussed their offensive problems.

"We only had 11 points combined," Smith said. "We're not going to win too many games without both of us being able to perform at our highest level."



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