The game started in Paul Pierce’s hands, so its fitting that it would end the same way as the final ticks ran off of the clock. The Captain and his troops were able to snag a win without their facilitator Rajon Rondo–something that many doubted that they could do.
Pierce snagged the jump ball from Atlanta and you could tell that there was a sense of urgency once he scored it. This was not the time for fun and games for these Celtics. This was probably as close to a must win game as they’ve faced in a while.
The two teams traded blows during the first period and it ended in a 24 all tie. Pierce had put up nine shots in the first period and had fifteen points to go with them. He was obviously going to be the catalyst for the offense tonight which isn’t anything out of the norm when Rondo is out. Paul Pierce is an adept ball handler and can play the point forward position if need be and that’s exactly what he did tonight.
Boston didn’t really get any offense out of anyone tonight besides Pierce who finished with 36 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 assists. Because of that, Atlanta was able to key on to Pierce and force him into turnovers that cost Boston some points on the defensive end. They had 14 turnovers in all to 14 assists which is uncharacteristic for the Celtics. They are normally a team who plays at a slower pace and takes care of the ball well–Atlanta did a great job of speeding the game up forcing them to play uncharacteristically.
Most notably Jeff Teague, who finished with 18 points and two assists, had done a great job of pushing the tempo early in the game. The rest of the Hawks fed off of this and used their overwhelming athleticism as an advantage over Boston. They were able to accumulate an 11 point lead twice in this game.
As we all know, basketball is a game of runs and once the score was 65 to 54 that’s exactly what Boston did. Initially, they weren’t able to get any good looks because of Atlanta’s defense. Because of the absence of Ray Allen, Atlanta is able to collapse and key in on the paint and mid range area of the floor. Boston has only hit three three-point shots in this series and they’ve all come in this game. The most consistent shooter from outside the arch with no Allen is Paul Pierce.
The only way that Boston would be able to get easy buckets without Rondo’s penetration and Allen’s shooting would be to convert missed shot chances from Atlanta into points. Being able to defend down the stretch was key in the third period. The line up that Doc employed near the end of the third was Dooling, Daniels, Pierce, Bass, and Garnett. The combo of Dooling and Daniels were able to stifle the offense of Teague and Joe Johnson. This sparked the rest of the team into equaling that defensive effort and gave the Celtics a chance in the end.
Jason Collins fouled out in the fourth quarter early and Josh Smith was forced to step into the center role. Kevin Garnett was able to take advantage and Boston was able to claw and grind their way back into the game. Smith was reportedly sidelined with a sprained knee after a collision with Garnett. If he is out for an elongated period of time, that could be crucial for Atlanta.
The series has flipped back into Boston’s favor. They’ve taken homecourt from Atlanta without their best shooter and best overall player. The series should get interesting now. Game three is in Boston on Friday.