No one -- certainly not Paul or his Boston teammates -- expected to face a formidable challenge in the opening round of the 2007-08 postseason. But they did.
The Truth entered the playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks on fire, averaging 18 points and six rebounds in the first two games. After 104-81 and 96-77 victories in Boston Garden, Boston had a commanding 2-0 lead.
It seemed as if the Hawks would simply roll over and give the Celtics a sweep -- at least, it did to everyone except Atlanta. The young, athletic Hawks stormed back, winning Game 3, 102-93, and then Game 4, 97-92.
Afterward, Boston coach Doc Rivers told the Associated Press:
"We had too many breakdowns...But give them credit. They're athletic, and they're good."
With the series shifting back to Boston, the Truth made sure his team would not head back to Atlanta down 3-2. He torched the Hawks for 22 points and seven rebounds, and the Celtics thumped Atlanta, 110-85.
Yet Atlanta bounced back to win Game 6, 103-100, and suddenly, it appeared that Boston's dream season was in real jeopardy.
And then the Truth arrived.
Just as he had done throughout every stage of his his career, Paul played bigger when the stage was its biggest. He went for 22 more points in game seven in Boston, as the Celtics blew out the Hawks 99-67, earning them a spot in the second round against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
|No. 34 and the Celtics prevailed against Atlanta, four games to three (Getty Images).
Afterward, Paul said that the outcome of the series was never in question.
"I really had no doubt in my mind how we were going to come out...You kind of saw it from the guys after Game 6 on the plane, there wasn't a lot of talking. We knew that we let a couple of games get away in Atlanta and I knew we were just going to take care of business."