BOSTON — By the time Avery Bradley, who is recovering from a dislocated shoulder, sank a free throw to give the Boston Celtics a 37-point lead early in the third quarter, Paul Pierce was done for the night, riding a stationary bicycle under the stands and trying to keep his sore left knee from stiffening up.
Ray Allen went to the bench soon after to rest his ailing right ankle. He grabbed a seat near Kevin Garnett, who is about to turn 36 and played 42 minutes in the previous game –surpassing 50,000 total minutes in the regular season and playoffs in his 17-year NBA career.
“We had a lot of things going on on our bench today with bodies,” coach Doc Rivers said on Sunday night after the Celtics coasted to a 101-79 victory over the Atlanta Hawks to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series.
Pierce scored 24 points in 18 minutes before heading to the stationary bicycle in the tunnel leading to the locker room, getting some much-needed rest after the Celtics scored 16 of the first 18 points in the second half.
Boston can close out the Hawks with a victory in Game 5 on Tuesday night in Atlanta.
“Their team set the tone from the jump ball and we weren’t able to recover,” said Al Horford, who played for the first time in almost four months and scored 12 points. “It’s disappointing for us to lose this way, but the good thing is we’re going back home. It’s 3-1 and I’m sure a lot of people are writing us off already. But we feel pretty good about going back home.”
Horford returned from a torn pectoral muscle that has kept him out since Jan. 11, but he wasn’t available in the fourth quarter. Josh Smith returned after missing Friday’s game and had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Atlanta.