BOSTON -- The Celtics are still making history. It's the good kind for a change.
The 10-time All-Star but first-year Celtic had 27 points, 19 rebounds, six assists and three blocks against a young and improving Atlanta team. Boston is much older but has improved more since posting the second worst record in the franchise's impressive history last season.
"When you coach or play in Boston, every day is something with history," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "This team is so history-rich. We've just got to get better."
The Celtics' 16 championships are the most in NBA history. Their 18-game losing streak last season was their longest ever.
Their 4-0 record is their best opening since 1987-88 when they won their first six games, finished with 52 wins and went on to the Eastern Conference finals, the last time the original Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish got there.
The winning margins this season have been much greater -- 20, 3, 26 and 23 points. In 1987, Boston won its first four games by 17, 1, 9 and 14.
"It's not only Garnett," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "When you throw Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in the mix, you know they've got shooters spaced all around Garnett."
Boston became the NBA's only remaining unbeaten team after the Los Angeles Clippers lost at Detroit on Friday night
Garnett has had a double-double in all four games, Pierce scored 23 points, Allen had 14 and Boston led by at least eight throughout the second half. Another newcomer, Eddie House, came off the bench to score 19, hitting four of five 3-pointers.
"He was the sparkplug," Pierce said.
Atlanta was led by Joe Johnson and Al Horford with 16 points each and Marvin Williams with 14. The Hawks' two wins this season have been over Dallas and Phoenix, who both won more than 60 games last season.
The Celtics won just 24 but so far have lived up to preseason predictions after they obtained Garnett and Allen.
"Boston looks like a great team, three great All-Stars" Johnson said. "They play the game the way it should be played."
The Celtics took the lead for good midway through the second quarter, stretched it to 17 points early in the third and led by between eight and 23 the rest of the way.
The Hawks led 31-30 before Allen's short jumper gave the Celtics the lead for good and began an 11-2 run that made it 41-33 with 4:49 left in the second quarter. Atlanta cut that to 47-39 but Boston finished the half with an 8-2 spurt in which Pierce had six points.
Atlanta came back again, trimming the lead to 67-59 with 2:42 left in the third quarter as the Celtics played sloppily. They finished with 18 turnovers.
"We hit our own guy in the head with the ball," Rivers said. "We're better than we played tonight."
They were solid on defense, a point of emphasis for the rebuilt team.
"The offense is the obvious, but you all don't know how hard we work on our defense," Garnett said, "talking to each other and being one when we're out there. We know we're not flawless."
After the lead dipped to eight, the Celtics answered by outscoring the Hawks 19-9 and taking an 86-68 lead with 8:08 remaining.
"We tightened up the defense and when we did that the offense started rolling," House said.
Garnett started that rally with a short turnaround jumper, House hit a 3-pointer and Garnett sank two free throws before Marvin Williams' tip drew the Hawks to 74-61 at the end of the third.
With Boston leading 79-66, Garnett sank another turnaround and Allen made a 14-footer. Josh Smith countered with a jumper for Atlanta, but House ended the run with another 3-pointer.
"We showed immaturity by playing too much one-on-one," Johnson said.
The Celtics resumed the sharpshooting they displayed in their 119-93 win over Denver on Wednesday night when they made 64.5 percent of their shots, their best since Nov. 24, 1993. On Friday night, they hit 61.2 percent while holding the Hawks to 42.9.
"They handed it to us, man," Johnson said. "It's a learning experience."
- Boston F Brian Scalabrine suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter and is expected to miss Saturday night's game at New Jersey.
- The Celtics outrebounded the Hawks 39-29 and had 30 assists to 17 for Atlanta.