Heading into last night’s game, the Celtics were shorthanded due to the losses of Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. Combine that with Mickael Pietrus picking up 3 fouls less than halfway through the 1st quarter and you get a real possibility that the Celtics could be heading back to Boston down 0-2 in the series. However, this Celtics team seems to play their best basketball when everyone has counted them out and last night was a perfect example.
Paul Pierce started the night shooting lights out. He outscored the Hawks 9-4 in the first 2:15 of the game. If there was ever a time for the captain to get off to a hot start and quiet the crowd, it was last night. Boston survived a mini surge from Atlanta and the 1st quarter ended with both teams tied at 24.
The next two quarters were won by the Hawks and it felt like they were gaining enough momentum to possibly run away with the game. The Atlanta lead grew to as much as 11 points with 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter but the Celtics hit just enough shots to keep them within striking distance. The lead was cut to 5 by the end of the 3rd and it looked like Boston could be a good quarter of basketball away from stealing a win on the road and tying the series up.
5 points would be the largest margin between the two teams for most of the 4th quarter. The Celtics tied the game up at 66 thanks to an Avery Bradley jump shot with just under 9 minutes to go. A lead that was once in double digits was now gone and it was anyone’s ball game. After the Celtics and Hawks traded a few baskets, Paul Pierce put the Celtics on top 72-70 with 6:30 left and Boston would never trail again. The lead was stretched out to 4 by a jump shot from Pierce and then he extended it again with a 3 pointer to make it 79-72. Atlanta was able to cut the lead down to 3 but the Celtics never wavered and came away with the 87-80 victory.
If the Celtics had lost last night, it probably would’ve been remembered as the game that Rondo didn’t play in. Instead, the game will now be remembered as the one that Paul Pierce stepped up and carried his team to victory. Pierce had a game high 36 points and 14 rebounds. Kevin Garnett added a double-double of his own with 15 points and 12 rebounds. With their win last night, Boston now has home-court advantage. Game 3 is Friday in Boston.