Originally written on State Of The Celtics  |  Last updated 5/1/12
97



No Rajon Rondo? No Ray Allen? Eh, whatever.

Paul Pierce turned into the 2002 version of Paul Pierce and carried the Celtics offensively. 36 points, 14 rebounds and one massive, backbreaking shot after another down the stretch more than made up for the Celtics' firepower that was relegated to viewership status. Calling his performance a thing of beauty would be an insult to Pierce's performance. It was heroic, something that you'd expect from one of the greatest players to ever suit up for the greatest franchise in NBA history.

Of course, Pierce's heroics would have been nullified had the defense not gone all 2008 on Atlanta in the fourth quarter. Trailing by five entering the final period, the Celtics allowed the Hawks to score a whopping 14 points on 4-19 shooting in the fourth while forcing six turnovers. In wonderful Celtics fashion, the defense jump-started the offense and turned the entire game around.

Avery Bradley overcame his Game 1 jitters, didn't overthink things and had a nice game offensively. Kevin Garnett was magnificent in the fourth quarter on the defensive end. Mickael Pietrus recovered from his three early fouls to make a difference with his defensive pressure and energy. Keyon Dooling gets a shout-out for hitting the first two three-pointers for the Celtics in the series.

The Celtics now have home-court advantage and an angry All-Star point guard with something to prove returning to the starting lineup on Friday night. Rondo can thank Pierce and company for bailing him out by coming out like gangbusters in Game 3 and stepping on Atlanta's throat.
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