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 – and might have cost himself a chance to play Game 2 Tuesday night.
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 scored 20 points and dished out 11 assists, but none of it mattered when he lost his cool. The Celtics not only lost this game, they might’ve lost their floor leader for the next one. He clearly stuck out his chest and struck the official, which will almost surely draw the wrath of NBA Commissioner David Stern.
“I deserved the first tech,” Rondo said. “I didn’t intentionally chest-bump him, but that’s what it appears to be. It’s out of my control.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers 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.”
Kevin Garnett bounced back from a miserable start to put up 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Celtics. Smith carried the Hawks on a night when All-Star guard Joe Johnson managed just 11 points on 3 of 15 shooting.