BOSTON (CBS) – With their star point guard out for Game 2, the Boston Celtics turned to an old reliable to carry the load.
And as usual, Paul Pierce was more than up for the task, leading the Celtics to an 87-80 victory over the Atlanta Hawks to even up their playoff series at a game apiece.
“I felt I had to do everything,” Pierce said with a chuckle after scoring 36 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. “With Rondo being out, a lot of responsiblity falls on me with play-making, scoring, rebounding. But that’s all part of it. A number of guys stepped up tonight, not only myself. I thought we played terrific defense throughout. We rebounded the ball and got off to a great start, which was important.”
“Paul was great,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “The only way we were going to win a game like this without Ray and Rondo was if Paul had a game like this.”
After scoring just 12 points in Game 1, Pierce knew he had to get off to a good start on Tuesday. So he came out and scored the Celtics’ first nine points. Then, with Boston trailing late in the third, he outscored the Hawks by himself to close out the game. The Celtics captain helped erase an 11-point deficit by outscoring Atlanta 18-15 over the final 15+ minutes.
Pierce finished with 13 points in the fourth quarter, and hit key shot after key shot for Boston down the stretch. But that is nothing new for the 13-year vet.
“I have a lot of experience, a lot of confidence from being in those moments,” said Pierce, who notched the 22nd playoff double-double of his career. “You believe in yourself, your coach believes in you, your team believes in you, it’s a combination of all those things.”
“He was a monster,” Rivers said of his captain. “He was great; his leadership, his intensity.”
The series now shifts back to Boston with Game 3 on Friday. Until then, Pierce can get some rest after logging 44+ minutes in Game 2, including 24 minutes in the second half.
After the game, Pierce tweeted “44 mins tonite to old for this I need a bed right now!!!”
Luckily, he found one a few hours later. With the Celtics canceling practice on Wednesday, he has plenty of time to rest for Game 3.