Celtics Lose NBA Playoff Opener, Rondo Faces Ban; Clippers Rally

The Boston Celtics are a game down in their National Basketball Association playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, their best outside shooter is hurt and their top playmaker faces a possible suspension.

With injured guard Ray Allen watching from the bench in a suit and tie, the Celtics missed all 11 of their 3-point attempts and lost 83-74 in the opener of their first-round playoff series yesterday against the host Atlanta Hawks.

Point guard Rajon Rondo was ejected late for bumping official Marc Davis and could be suspended by the NBA for the second game of the series tomorrow night in Atlanta.

“As I was walking, I thought he stopped,” Rondo told reporters. “My momentum carried me into him, I even think I tripped on his foot. I didn’t intentionally chest-bump him.”

The Los Angeles Clippers overcame a 24-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 99-98, and the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers also won the openers of their best-of-seven series last night.

The Clippers trailed 95-71 with less than eight minutes remaining in their game at Memphis before ending the contest with a 28-3 run.

“We felt as though we gave this game away and everybody’s down,” Rudy Gay, who missed a 16-foot jump shot at the final buzzer after leading Memphis with 19 points, said at a news conference. “We got too comfortable out there.”

Josh Smith had 22 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Hawks past Boston at Philips Arena. Rondo and Kevin Garnett had 20 points each to lead the Celtics.

Allen’s Absence

Allen, 36, missed a playoff game for the first time in his 17-year career because of a sore right ankle. He has played in 110 postseason games for Milwaukee, Seattle and the Celtics.

Rondo, who led the NBA by averaging 11.7 assists per game during the regular season, got thrown out in the game’s final minute after the Celtics had whittled a 19-point Atlanta lead to four points.

“It affects us a lot, he’s our leader,” Garnett told reporters. “Whatever the decision is, we have to be able to play without him, and we’ll be prepared either way.”

In Memphis, the Grizzlies -- who led by as many as 27 points -- missed 13 of their final 14 shots. Chris Paul, who had 14 points and 11 assists for the Clippers, hit two free throws with 24 seconds left for the victory.

“I don’t think I’ve been part of a game like that, ever,” the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, who had 17 points, said in a news conference. “It was unbelievable.”

Butler Breaks Hand

Clippers starting forward Caron Butler, 32, broke his left hand in the third quarter and Los Angeles said his status for the rest of the series had not yet been determined.

Tony Parker scored 28 points as host San Antonio defeated the Utah Jazz 106-91. The Spurs, the top seeds in the Western Conference, are seeking a fifth NBA title after successes in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007.

Kobe Bryant had 31 points and Andrew Bynum had a triple-double with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocks for the Lakers, who held the visiting Nuggets to 36 percent shooting in their 103-88 victory. The Lakers won the latest of their 16 NBA titles in 2010.

Tonight’s three games including the second of the series between the New York Knicks and Miami Heat. Miami won the opener 100-67 two days ago at home and also hosts tonight’s game. Also, Orlando tries for its second straight win on the road against Indiana and Oklahoma City seeks a 2-0 series advantage against visiting Dallas.

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