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Posted: Jun 16, 2012 6:29:36 am

ATLANTA - Mike Woodson showed up at practice with a shaved head Friday. LeBron James Swingman Jersey . Anything to loosen up a team that faces a monumental challenge in the playoffs. The Atlanta Hawks are on the wrong side of what looks to be one of the biggest mismatches in NBA post-season history. After fortuitously making it this far with a record thats eight games under .500, theyll face the 66-win Boston Celtics. "I feel like everybodys counting us out," forward Josh Smith said. "We have nothing to lose, so weve got to go in there with a mentality that we can beat this team." Woodson, Atlantas fourth-year coach, has certainly gone beyond the call of duty to fire up his team. Paying off a bet actually made last season, he shaved his head to reward the Hawks for their first playoff appearance in nine years. Hes also hoping it will distract his team, keep their minds off the long odds they face against the big, bad Celtics. "Yeah, thats kind of what its all about," Woodson said. "Plus I made a bet with these guys a year ago. Ill do anything to make the playoffs and give our organization and our team an opportunity to play for a championship. But youve got to get there first. This is the first step for our ball club." Atlanta (37-45) finished 29 games behind the Celtics (66-16) during the regular season, the largest differential between two first-round opponents since 1996. That year, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls - who set a league record with 72 wins - faced a Miami team that went 42-40. Not surprisingly, the eventual NBA champions swept the Heat in the best-of-five series. Most are predicting the same outcome for the Hawks, who were no match for Boston during the regular season. They lost two meetings on the road by an average of 16.5 points and fell to the Celtics 99-89 last weekend, preventing Atlanta from clinching a playoff berth on its home court. Most troubling for the Hawks: They were tied after three quarters but got outplayed by Bostons backups over the final period in a game that didnt mean a thing to the Celtics. Indeed, all signs point to the favourites in this series. Atlanta doesnt have anyone to match Bostons Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. The only Hawks player making a significant contribution off the bench is Josh Childress, while the Celtics have nine players who averaged at least 18 minutes a game. Atlanta has improved offensively since acquiring point guard Mike Bibby, but the Hawks are still prone to woeful defensive lapses. Plus, Boston was able to rest up down the stretch, while the Hawks had to play hard until the final days of the season. Boston coach Doc Rivers mainly has to guard against overconfidence. "Theyre athletic as heck. Weve struggled with athletic teams: Charlotte, Philadelphia, Washington," Rivers insisted. "What were trying to achieve should be tough and it will be tough." Only three No. 8 seeds have pulled off first-round upsets, and Golden State a year ago was the first to do it since the format went to best-of-seven in 2003. The Warriors stunned the 67-win Dallas Mavericks in six games after finishing 25 games behind them during the regular season. Rest assured, Woodson will be reminding his players of the Golden State model plenty of times before the Hawks tip off at Boston in Game 1 on Sunday. "I couldnt be more proud of a group of guys than those guys in the locker room," he said. "When you set a goal at the beginning of the season, sometimes you dont always reach your goals." Atlanta rookie Al Horford doesnt know any better. He won two straight national titles at Florida before joining the Hawks, who havent won a championship in 50 years, a full decade before the franchise moved from St. Louis to Atlanta. "How can you be discouraged at this point in the year?" Horford said. "I think were here for a reason. Its the playoffs. Everybody has the same opportunity. Well, not really. The Hawks got into the playoffs mainly through geography. They play in the weak Eastern Conference, which has a playoff field that includes two below-.500 teams (Atlanta and Philadelphia) and a Toronto squad that finished 41-41. If playing out West, all three would have been done for the year. In fact, three non-playoff teams in the West had better records than Atlantas mark. But the Hawks arent making any apologies, not after going through two major rebuilding jobs and enduring a dismal 13-69 season during their nine-year hiatus from the playoffs. Bring on the Celtics. "The disparity between the records, I mean, it is what it is," general manager Billy Knight said. "Its a challenge to try and go up there and play them. Theyre supposed to win. Everybody understands that. I think the players have said that over and over. Theyre the best team in the league. They have the best record. But were still going to go play." After Fridays practice, the players huddled around their newly bald coach at midcourt. "You may play only two or three minutes," Woodson said. "But theyd better be the most important two or three minutes of your life." Associated Press freelance writer Amy Jinkner-Lloyd in Atlanta contributed to this report. Patrick Peterson Youth Jersey . The first all-Portuguese semifinal in a continental competition burst into life after an uneventful first half, with three goals in 10 minutes. Centre back Jardel poked the ball in from short range in the 50th minute after Cardozos header bounced back off the post. Kevin Durant Thunder Jersey . Scoring seven goals against a tough opponent didnt hurt either. Seven players shared the scoring Monday as the Canucks routed the Dallas Stars 7-1 and snapped a four-game winless streak. Alex Smith Youth Jersey .B. - Marek Hrivik scored two goals and the Moncton Wildcats beat the Halifax Mooseheads 6-1 in Tuesdays lone Quebec Major Junior Hockey League game. Jeff Saturday Jersey . They signed one star forward in Marian Hossa, only to lose another one in Martin Havlat. They stunned everyone by demoting general manager Dale Tallon. Mike Jenkins Jersey . "I dont think anybody can really say that were the laughing stock of the NBA anymore," Wes Johnson said. "If you come in here thinking that, youre going to catch an L real quick." The Portland Trail Blazers were just the latest team to discover that.WASHINGTON -- With captain Alex Ovechkin out, the Washington Capitals needed someone to pick up the scoring slack. Mathieu Perreault filled the role -- and then some. Perreault got his first career hat trick, including the tie-breaking goal in the third period, to lead the Capitals to a 5-3 victory over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. "This is the best feeling ever," Perreault said. "Getting three goals and we win the game, this is awesome." Perreaults third goal of the game came 7:18 into the third period when he put in a rebound off Roman Hamrliks shot to give Washington the lead. The score broke a three-all tie and brought hats raining down onto the Verizon Center ice. "It was outstanding," forward Matt Hendricks said. "Kids been working extremely hard all season. Hes been in and out of the lineup. He comes to the rink with that smile on his face and hes got a great personality, great guy to be around. I feel great for him. Im so happy. Everybody else in this room Im sure feels the same way." Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand scored for Boston in the final game for both teams before the all-star break. The Capitals were without Ovechkin, who was serving the first game of a three-game suspension for a hit on Pittsburgh defenceman Zbynek Michalek in Washingtons loss Sunday. Ovechkin also announced Tuesday he would skip the NHL all-star game, saying, "My heart is not there." Washington was already missing another key offensive player: centre Nicklas Backstrom, who missed his 10th straight game after being elbowed in the head. "Youre not going to replace Alex, but as a committee were going to have to get the goals," Washington coach Dale Hunter said before the game. "We need people to step up." Perrault certainly did. His first goal came at 2:55 in the second period, 41 seconds after Cody Eakin scored Washingtons first goal. Perreault brought the puck down the centre of the ice, passed to Alexander Semin on the right side, and Semin sent it back to Perreault, who was between the circles. Perrault flipped the puck past Boston goalie Tuukka Rusk after he had moved to cutt off a possible Semin shot. Vernon Davis Jersey. The teams then traded scores off turnovers. Seguin picked off a pass from Capitals defenceman John Carlson in Washingtons zone and scored at 12:21 in the second. Perreault put the Capitals ahead again about two minutes later, stealing a pass in the middle of the ice and converting on a breakaway for his second of the game. "That breakaway was one of my nicest goals," Perreault said. "But that third one, when you get that hat trick, its awesome. The crowd gets into it, and the hats are going onto the ice -- its just awesome." Perreault was also at the centre of Bostons goal late in the second period which tied the game at three, when he was whistled for a hooking penalty with about three minutes to play in the period. Boston took advantage as Marchand banged in a rebound with 2:18 left. Perreaults third goal gave Washington the lead, and Dennis Wideman had an empty-net goal in the final minute to secure the victory. "Not a very good game for us to end with before the break, no doubt," said Boston coach Claude Julien. "Probably the positive thing is weve got five days to think about that, and come back hopefully refreshed, rejuvenated and playing with a lot more energy." While the Bruins head into the all star break disappointed, the Capitals ended the first half of the season on a high note after struggling at times this season. "I think it was one of the biggest (wins) of the year," Hendricks said. "We didnt have all of our skill in the lineup, we didnt have our leader in Ovi. We really knew we had to play as a team tonight, come together as a great hockey team, and I think we did that." NOTES: Boston RW Nathan Horton sat out his first game of the season with what Julien termed a "mild concussion." Julien said he hoped Horton would be able to return after the all-star break. ... Boston G Tim Thomas, who skipped Mondays White House ceremony honouring the teams Stanley Cup win last season, did not play. ... Hunter said he didnt expect Ovechkin to be handed a three-game suspension. "I was surprised it was as harsh as it was," the coach said before the game. ' ' '

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