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Sports

April 21, 2008

Off and running: Clearly on a mission, Celtics manhandle Hawks in series opener

On Pro Basketball

David Willis

BOSTON — It was just over three hours before to tip-off, and parquet floor at the TD Banknorth Garden sat nearly empty, with many of the overhead lights still dark.

But there was veteran Celtics guard Ray Allen, the No. 2 3-point shooter in NBA history, standing alone on the dim court, other than a few kids. He fired up jump shot after jump shot from all over the floor, often sprinting to grab his own rebounds and dripping with sweat.

It was an image worthy of the stories told of the legendary Celtics teams that fans of the glory days have been telling the younger generation for years and years.

Hours after his warmup, Allen and crew started what could be a new Golden era.

The top-seeded Celtics kicked off the 2008 NBA playoffs in grand fashion, walloping the No. 8 Atlanta Hawks 104-81 last night.

It didn't matter it was the 1-8 matchup. The Celtics entered the game with fire in their eyes, and kept that killer instinct until the game was well out of reach.

"Running through the tunnel (before the game), I had so much emotion that I had to slow down," said Kevin Garnett. "You could hear the crowd, you hear the building rocking and the bleachers shaking.

"I'm the last one out so nobody is talking to me. I had to take a minute for myself and thank the Lord I am back in this position. I'm not going to hold back. I'm going to enjoy this ride for as long as it lasts."

It was Kendrick Perkins that set the emotional tone early in the first half. After Paul Pierce hit a pair of 3-pointers, Perkins grabbed a rebound and was fouled going up for a dunk. He then took two steps towards the stands, flexed, and let out a loud scream to the elation of the crowd.

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