Hawks swoop over Celtics

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ATLANTA, Georgia, April 30- Josh Smith scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds Sunday as the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Boston Celtics 83-74 in game one of their NBA Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo each scored 20 points for Boston, but Rondo ended the contest under a cloud as he was ejected with 41 seconds remaining when he received two quick technical fouls for his reaction to a loose ball foul call on teammate Brandon Bass.

After the first technical, Rondo — who also handed out 11 assists — appeared to bump referee Marc Davis from behind with his chest in a move that could earn him a suspension by the NBA.

“He might have let his competitive nature get the better of him a little bit,” said Atlanta’s Smith.

Rondo insisted he didn’t intentionally make contact with the official.

“Obviously I was upset about the call and said some words to Marc,” Rondo said. “I deserved the first technical.

“As I was walking, I thought he stopped and my momentum carried me into him,” Rondo said. “I didn’t intentionally chest bump him.”

Elsewhere, The Los Angeles Clippers stormed back from a 27-point second-half deficit to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 99-98 in the first game of their NBA Western Conference first-round series.

Chris Paul’s two free throws with 23.7 seconds left gave the Clippers the one-point lead, and Rudy Gay missed a jump shot as time expired that would have salvaged the victory for Memphis.

The Clippers’ remarkable rally, after they trailed by 24 points with less than nine minutes remaining, followed emphatic victories for the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and perennial contenders the Los Angeles Lakers in their first-round openers.

All-Star center Andrew Bynum delivered a dazzling defensive display in the Lakers’ 103-88 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

He matched the NBA playoff record for blocked shots in a game with 10, part of a “triple-double” that included 13 rebounds and 10 points.

In San Antonio, Tony Parker scored 28 points and Tim Duncan added 17 to lead the Spurs over the Utah Jazz 106-91.

Bynum had the Lakers’ first post-season “triple-double” since Magic Johnson managed the feat in the 1991 NBA Finals.

Although he was pleased to follow in the footsteps of one of the league’s greats, Bynum said the victory was the most important thing.

“We’re out here now trying to win games,” he said. “If I’m aggressive defensively, I think we have the best chance to do it.”

Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant scored 31 points and Spanish import Pau Gasol added 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

But Lakers coach Mike Brown said he had no doubt it was Bynum who was the key.

“To me the difference in the game is Andrew Bynum,” Brown said. “He can control the game without shooting a shot. He was phenomenal.”

The Spurs, who closed the regular season on a 10-game win streak, will host Utah on Wednesday in game two of the best-of-seven series.

Duncan grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds while Parker contributed a game-high eight assists and Stephen Jackson added 14 points for San Antonio, which had not won a playoff series opener in six tries over the past four years.

Last season as the top seeds in the West, the Spurs dropped their opening game at home to Memphis and were eliminated in six games in the first round.

“I think everybody knows what happened last year and everybody is very motivated this year,” Parker said of the lingering sting of last season’s round-one loss to Memphis.

“I was a little bit disappointed in my performance last year. I had a lot better season this year and made sure I played with a different attitude. I made sure I set the table in game one by being aggressive and build on that.”

Parker scored 12 points in the second quarter to spark the Spurs to a 54-47 half-time lead and San Antonio stretched the margin through the second half, the largest edge being 104-87 with two minutes remaining.

The only downside for the Spurs was the left wrist sprain suffered by Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter, who had scored four points in just over seven minutes.

Jeff Teague added 15 points and six rebounds for the Hawks and Kirk Hinrich chipped in 12.

Garnett shrugged off a slow start to score 18 of his points in the second half as Boston attempted to rally, but the Celtics couldn’t get over the hump after trailing by as many as 19.

Paul Pierce scored 12 points for Boston on 5-of-19 shooting, and the Celtics were 0-of-11 from three-point range.

“We wanted home court advantage for a reason,” Smith said of the Hawks’ determined start. “We didn’t want them to come in here and try to steal game one.”

The contest was the only Eastern Conference match-up on Sunday.

On Monday, the New York Knicks will try to rebound from a 100-67 drubbing on Saturday at the hands of LeBron James and Miami as the Heat host game two.

“We’ve been pretty good at bouncing back,” said Knicks coach Mike Woodson. “Hopefully, we’ll pick up the pieces from where we screwed things up and hopefully be a better team.”

Orlando, who scored the last 11 points to steal game one from the Pacers at Indiana, will try to press their advantage in game two on Monday.

Eastern Conference top seeds Chicago have until Tuesday to get to grips with the season-ending torn knee ligament suffered by superstar point guard Derrick Rose in their game-one victory over Philadelphia on Saturday.

“I think we all feel awful for him,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said after his team trained on Sunday.

“Derrick’s not only a great player, he’s a great teammate, he’s a great person. But it’s not a death sentence. It’s not a death sentence for him, it’s not a death sentence for our team.”

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