Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Paul Pierce Delivers A Vintage Performance As The Celts Win In Atlanta
Without Rajon Rondo (suspended) and Ray Allen (ankle), the C's were able to rally from down 11 (65-54) in the third quarter to win 87-80 tonight in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference first round series with the Hawks. Boston got the all-important road win as the series shifts back to TD Garden this weekend tied 1-1.
Paul Pierce (36 points, 14 rebounds; 22nd career playoff double-double) had one of the greatest playoff performances of his storied career which is saying something. He scored the first nine points for the Celtics and continued to make all the big shots down the stretch. He was also 11 of 13 from the free throw line. He capped it off with his hood version of Tebowing (seen above) in a true WTF moment.
Kevin Garnett had 15 points, 12 rebounds and five assists while Avery Bradley (14 points, 3 steals, 3 blocks) looked much more like himself than in Game 1. Brandon Bass has yet to breakout but he had eight points and six rebounds. They didn't put up numbers but Ryan Hollins, Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic all gave Doc Rivers minutes which is as much as you can ask from them.
Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 22 points although he missed a questionable 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter when Atlanta was completely falling apart. Josh Smith had 16 points, 15 rebounds and five assists but he left with a sprained knee. Jeff Teague has been a real surprise for the Hawks, he scored 18.
For a while it seemed like the Green might not make a 3-pointer this series after going 0 for 11 in Game 1 but Keyon Dooling broke the ice cold stretch with two long-range shots. Pierce also hit a three although the team still shot a brutal 3 for 14 on 3-pointers.
Boston's defense got the job done tonight as they continually got stops when it mattered. It was tied 24-24 after one quarter and Atlanta was up 44-41 at halftime. The Hawks led 66-61 heading into the fourth but the Celtics understood it was winning time and they proved that they can triumph on the road (not an easy task in the crooked and shady NBA).
The funniest sight was seeing the awful Hawks fans streaming out when there was a minute left to play. Atlanta is probably the worst sports city in America.
For the game, Boston shot 42.6% to 34.9% for Atlanta. The Hawks made three more 3-pointers (6-3) but the Celtics balanced that out by hitting 10 more free throws (26-16). The C's survived getting worked in the paint (42-26).
Game 3 on Friday (7:30 p.m., ESPN) could be pivotal in the series. With Rondo back and the energy of the home crowd, it wouldn't surprise me to see Boston win that and end up wrapping up the series in five games. On the other hand, I think all these games will be close so it's most likely going six or (gulp) seven games regardless.
I honestly don't expect Ray back in this series and we'll have to see what Smith's status is by Friday (with an extra day off), it was serious at the time since he never returned. I'm not going to rule him out yet but if Smith misses Game 3, advantage Celtics because he's Atlanta's top player. Getting this victory flips all the momentum in the series. Boston's defense is a constant but if they can also put together a decent offensive night, then they will be onto something.