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Paul Pierce wills Boston Celtics to victory, ties series with Atlanta Hawks

May 1, 2012, 10:49 PM EDT

paul pierce Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks looked like a solid basketball team for about 35 minutes of Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Celtics, the team in danger of falling behind 2-0 in the seven-game series when they were forced to play without their starting backcourt. The Celtics looked like they’d return to Boston in a hole after trailing by 11 points late in the third quarter, too, but  like he’s done quite a few times since first donning Boston Green way back in 1998, Paul Pierce decided it was time to take over.

Pierce looked excellent in the first quarter as he scored 13 of the team’s 24 points, but even that performance wasn’t enough foreshadowing to lead everyone to believe he’d take the game’s final stanza over quite like he would. By the time things were done, in fact, it almost seemed as though Pierce said, “No Ray Allen? No Rajon Rondo? No problem!” as he hoisted the Celtics on his back on the way to 36 points, 14 rebounds and an 87-80 victory to tie the series at one game apiece for prior to Friday night’s Game 3 back in Boston.

The veteran wing sat idly by as the Celtics ran the offense through Garnett. Pierce took over midway through the fourth quarter when he smelled blood (thanks to the Hawks going into a terrible isolation offense) and ferociously attacked. The team’s fourth-quarter catalyst scored seven of nine Celtics points midway through the fourth quarter to move the game from a 60-60 tie to a 71-65 lead — capped off with an ode to Tim Tebow for good measure — and Boston would hold off the Hawks the rest of the way.

Pierce’s game will no doubt be talked about most as the reason Boston was able to steal a game in Atlanta despite missing both Allen (due to injury) and Rondo (due to suspension), but it could just as easily be attributed to Atlanta losing focus after playing pretty well through the first two and a half quarters of basketball. It certainly didn’t help that Josh Smith headed back to the locker room late in the fourth quarter with what was later diagnosed as a sprained knee, but even before that happened, the Hawks’ offense looked awful.

Atlanta shot worse than 35 percent from the field and, while it’d be great to be able to say that was due to a defensive battle, the Hawks simply quit trying to execute on the offensive end as the game progressed. Jeff Teague attacked the rim with reckless abandon instead of finding the open man off the drive like he did earlier in the game, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith were unable to create off the dribble and didn’t have any cutters to pass the ball too before they threw up errant shots (the two missed 23 combined field goal attempts) while the rest of the Hawks simply aren’t built to score in the isolation offense head coach Larry Drew drew(?) up.

As far as the rest of the game was concerned, it was great to be able to focus on some of the role players while the key guys were out — once getting past the fact that Sasha Pavlovic, Ivan Johnson, Keyon Dooling and Willie Green are all playing meaningful minutes in the playoffs, anyway. Kirk Hinrich didn’t have an impressive box score with just eight points, but his impact was much greater as he was by far the headiest guard in action Tuesday night; D-League stalwart Ivan Johnson and Jason Collins were able to basically bottle up Kevin Garnett before Drew left Collins in too long and he picked up his sixth foul up early in the fourth quarter; and Avery Bradley, another player that spent a significant amount of his rookie season in the NBA Development League, showed solid moxie as he played more than 41 minutes while picking up three steals, three blocks and just a single turnover as the team’s starting point guard.

It’s tough to say that the second game of the series mattered immensely as far as the big picture of the series is concerned since it’s possible Smith will be out due to the knee injury, Allen and Zaza Pachulia will return from injury and Rondo will be back from his one-game suspension. That said, though, it’s pretty difficult to imagine the Hawks will be able to overcome Pierce if he plays like a man possessed once again on Friday night.

  1. everydayimfumbilin - May 1, 2012 at 10:57 PM

    Put da team on his back doe.

  2. jjordannba - May 1, 2012 at 11:08 PM

    Bozo what you got this time?

    • patsfiend - May 1, 2012 at 11:59 PM

      Why would you encourage the coward troll who is jealous of the Celtics Greatness and Pride that his team so lacks?

      • fouldwimmerlaik - May 2, 2012 at 2:48 AM

        You are questioning the greatness and pride of the Lakers franchise? LMFAO!!! That’s one of the dumbest if not hypocritical diatribe I have ever heard! Give me ONE team that has been a CONSISTENT contender AND champion for the past three decades.

        Anyhoots, props to the Celtics for overcoming an uphill battle considering what they have to go through.

        You don’t have to be a Celtic fan to appreciate that.

      • patsfiend - May 2, 2012 at 11:14 AM

        Not really. Plenty of respect for the Lakers, though question their recent (last few years) emotional stability. The message not meant for you!

      • fouldwimmerlaik - May 2, 2012 at 9:19 PM

        @patsfiend: As I have profound respect for the Celtics franchise. It’s quite understandable how you think of some Laker fans like Bozo, but please, attack the fan not the franchise (at least how you put it about “the lack of Greatness and Pride” of the team that this certain fan supports).

        And I do know that the message was not for me. I just wanted to point out that your clause doesn’t make sense (“who is jealous of the Celtics Greatness and Pride that his team so lacks?”)

      • patsfiend - May 2, 2012 at 11:20 PM

        Fair enough. In light of the Seau thing today, and Bozo’s classless acts on those strings, I feel yet again stupid for spending 30 seconds replying in the first place.

    • andyhr17 - May 2, 2012 at 8:57 AM

      You shouldn’t poke a sleeping animal with a stick.

    • j0esixpack - May 2, 2012 at 10:32 AM

      Does that idiot post over here too? That’s some weird psychotic hatred he has for all things New England. Too bad he consistently humiliates himself.

      Not even the biggest hater can question Pierce’s heart after that performance.

      The series is far from over but I’m glad that no matter what happens, fans everywhere got a reminder of just what caliber of player Pierce truly is.

  3. giselleisasucubus - May 1, 2012 at 11:32 PM

    Good win. Bradley is so good on defense and his offense is getting there. This team is tough, real tough.

  4. eagles512 - May 1, 2012 at 11:32 PM

    Pierce was great but Tebowing was awkward and unfunny. Maybe 3 months ago….never mind. It wouldn’t have been funny then either.

    • ku62 - May 2, 2012 at 12:20 AM

      Who told you it was supposed to be funny? He could be saying thanks for a few things working when his shot was still off.

  5. patsfiend - May 1, 2012 at 11:58 PM

    “All grit and balls.” That’s how Garnett put it, after the game. Bradley went charging into nowhere a couple times (really just one turnover?) but overall had a solid game. The dude is fast. On to Boston!

  6. mungman69 - May 2, 2012 at 12:45 AM

    Can’t beat the Heat

    • fouldwimmerlaik - May 2, 2012 at 2:55 AM

      … that’s what they said last year after The Decision. Hohummmm…*yawn*

  7. hojo20 - May 2, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    I could tell it was going to be a Pierce dominated game when he took it to the hoop and scored 4 seconds into the game.

  8. lakerluver - May 2, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    P. P. is the “Truth”. I love his old man game.

  9. mistercharitystripe34 - May 2, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    I love Paul Pierce. He’s been one of my top three favorite athletes since his rookie year. The man is clutch and a great player.

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