05/04/2012 - 13:36
Paul's Superior Effort Gives Celtics Game Three Momentum
Ryan Laughlin and the Paul Pierce Team
On Tuesday night down in Atlanta, the shorthanded Boston Celtics were supposed to lose. With no Rajon Rondo and no Ray Allen, it was assumed that the C's lacked the firepower to tie their first round series with Atlanta, that they would return to the TD Garden down two games to none.
Somebody forgot to tell Paul Pierce.
''The only way we were going to win a game like this, without Ray and Rondo, was if Paul had a game like this,'' coach Doc Rivers said.
Indeed, Paul did everything he could to prevent the Celtics from falling into a two-game hole against Atlanta, ringing up 36 points and ripping down 14 rebounds, but he was especially effective in the two quarters where it mattered most. Boston needed reason to believe they could hang with Atlanta without two of their starters, and Paul’s first quarter performance eliminated any doubts. He scored 11 first quarter points, set the pace early for the Atlantic Division champs, and helped battle the Hawks to a 24-24 draw.
Over the next two quarters, the game began to get away from Boston a bit, and Paul shifted back into overdrive for the fourth. Entering the quarter down five points, he came out aggressive, opening with a driving layup. On the next possession, he fought for an offensive rebound off his own miss, and within seconds, the game was tied again.
''I have a lot of experience, a lot of confidence from being in those moments," Paul said. "You believe in yourself, your coach believes in you, your team believes in you, it's a combination of all those things.''
Both teams struggled to separate from each other all night, but in the latter half of the final period, Paul put his mark on Game 2. Halfway through the quarter, he nailed a jumper that gave Boston a lead, and he single-handedly protected it for the rest of the game. He reeled off seven straight points to put Boston in the driver’s seat, then made sure to do all the little things too, diving for loose balls, refusing to give Atlanta any hope. Paul’s 13 points in the fourth quarter helped Paul outscore the Hawks all by himself in the game’s last fifteen minutes in the 87-80 Boston Celtics Game 2 victory.
Paul has been saving his best for when his team needs him most all year. The last time Pierce was without Allen and Rondo, he went off for 29 points and 14 assists in a win over Orlando. In fact, the Celtics are an impressive 9-5 without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo. Given the season that Paul has had, this shouldn't be much of a surprise.
Did You Know?
Tuesday's game marked the tenth year of fourth quarter playoff heroics for Paul and the Celtics. Back in 2002, Paul’s teammates mobbed him at half court after he led the Celtics with 28 points in a historic 21-point comeback in 2002 versus the New Jersey Nets. "At the start of the fourth quarter, we just wanted to fight and make a statement for the next game that we're going to be a team to be reckoned with. I think we did more than make a statement," Paul said after the historic win.
See if Paul make more history tonight when he and the Celtics return home to host Atlanta in a crucial Game 3.