Celtics rout Hawks to take commanding series lead

After needing overtime to take Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the Hawks, the Boston Celtics routed Atlanta, 101-79, in Game 4 on Sunday.

Boston shot 60 percent from the floor in the first three quarters, building a lead as large as 37, and led by double-digits for the game's final 37 minutes.

"Defensive energy is really what got us going," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I think they had eight turnovers, maybe 10 in the first quarter. We had over 24 deflections at halftime. That's a game."

Paul Pierce netted 24 points and Rajon Rondo followed up his Game 3 triple- double with 20 points and 16 assists, two of six Celtics to score in double- figures as they took a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Celtics can punch their ticket to the semifinals in Game 5, slated for Tuesday in Atlanta.

After missing Game 3 with a shoulder injury, Josh Smith returned to Atlanta's starting lineup and paced the Hawks with 15 points in defeat.

The Celtics opened the game on a 17-9 run and never looked back, trailing for just 14 seconds in the opening minute.

They eventually won the opening period by a 32-19 margin, helped by errors from their opponents. Boston turned eight Atlanta turnovers in 11 points in the first.

"The early turnovers really put us behind...We had to take care of the basketball," said Hawks coach Larry Drew. "We were beaten in every phase of the game. It started the first six minutes of the game. We did not respond very well to the pressure, to the aggressiveness that they were playing with."

Already leading 39-27 midway through the second, Pierce spurred a 12-0 run with a jumper. He also hit a pair of three-pointers during the flurry, part of a 4-of-6 night from beyond the arc.

Boston tallied another 32 points in the second stanza and led 64-41 at intermission.

The Hawks shot under 37 percent in the second half and never seriously threatened.

Game Notes

Ray Allen and Avery Bradley both played for Boston...Pierce left the game with a sore left knee in the second quarter but eventually returned...The Hawks committed 18 turnovers...Atlanta's Jeff Teague was changed with a flagarant-1 foul in the third quarter.