Hawks can't handle The Truth in Game 2


Hawks can't handle The Truth in Game 2

ATLANTA Moments after the opening jump ball sailed in the air, it was in Paul Pierce's hands. And from there lay-up.

Six seconds in and Pierce was already on the scoreboard.

As it turned out, that basket was nothing more than the trailer for the show Paul Pierce was about to put on.

Pierce would score Boston's first nine points, and finish with 36 points and 14 rebounds as the Celtics pulled away in the fourth quarter for an 87-80 win.

It was Pierce's 22nd playoff double-double, and it came on a night when the Celtics absolutely needed the Truth to deliver in a big way.

Boston had lost Game 1 and would have been in a must-win situation had they dropped Tuesday's game.

Making things tougher than usual was that the C's had to play without Rajon Rondo, who was suspended after making contact with official Marc Davis in Game 1.

His absence was just the latest setback for the Celtics, who were also without Ray Allen whose right ankle injury has yet to heal enough to where he can resume playing.

But as the C's have been doing all season, adversity has a way of bringing out the best in them.

Following Boston's Game 1 loss, Pierce didn't mince his words when it came to his play in the defeat.

"For us to win, I have to be a better player," Pierce said shortly after the C's Game 1 loss. "That's just what it is."

On Tuesday, Pierce was better.

A lot better.

And the Celtics needed everything he had to offer in order to beat a scrappy Atlanta Hawks club.

C's coach Doc Rivers rode Pierce as long as he could, with the Captain playing more than 44 minutes.

"I wanted to give Paul a rest early in the fourth quarter," Rivers said. "But I just couldn't with the way the game was going."

Avery Bradley was among the many Celtics who wasn't surprised that Pierce played so well in a game that a number of Boston players said before-hand was one they had to have, with or without Rondo.

"We knew our playmakers would make plays," Bradley said. "And Paul is one of our playmakers. We knew he would not only get people shots, but make shots. That's what he did tonight."

Hawks coach Larry Drew said he anticipated a more aggressive Paul Pierce on the floor Tuesday night.

"I told our guys we would just have to stay the course throughout the game," Drew said. "We tried to make things as tough as we could and contest some of his shots. He came out very strong, but we were still in a good position even after that. He didn't do anything that we didn't expect from him tonight."

He scored. He rebounded. He got shots for his teammates.

It was the kind of all-around game that Pierce has displayed when needed.

On Tuesday night?

The Celtics needed it - badly.

"The only way we were going to win a game like that without Ray (Allen) and (Rajon) Rondo," Rivers said. "Was if Paul had a game like this."

Celtics hope to rebound after being outplayed by Bulls on the boards

Celtics hope to rebound after being outplayed by Bulls on the boards

Following Thursday’s 105-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics will be on the prowl to rebound – literally – from its first defeat of the season.

Because for all that did not go right in Thursday night’s loss, the way Boston was beaten on the boards stands out emphatically.

“They got 24 more shots than us. We only turned it over (12) times,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. “So that’s the obvious place they’re getting their possessions, on the glass. That’s going to be the number one thing, that has been the number one thing. It’s something we’ve talked about. We have to get better at it.”


Boston was out-rebounded 55-36 on the boards which heavily factored into Chicago’s 18-5 advantage in second-chance points.

In the Celtics' 122-117 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday, Boston won the overall rebounding battle 47-44, but had just 12 offensive rebounds compared to Brooklyn's 15 offensive boards. Despite the close margin, the Nets won the battle on the offensive glass running away, outscoring the Celtics 23-13 in second-chance points.

Stevens decided to start Tyler Zeller ahead of Amir Johnson to begin the third quarter, hoping Zeller would be a better matchup on the glass than Johnson who did not grab a single rebound in the 11 minutes of court time he got in the first half.

While Zeller did do a few good things on the glass and scoring in half-court sets, it wasn’t enough to swing the momentum Chicago was steadily gaining due to its ability to control the boards.

“I wasn’t real surprised but at the same time I knew it could happen,” Zeller told reporters, referring to Stevens’ decision to have him start the second half. “They did a good job of coming out and setting the tone. They beat us up on the boards, especially the first half. It’s something we have to get better at and continue to grow at.”

And it’s not a one-player or one-position issue, either.

Usually we think of bigs when it comes to rebounding. But Boston’s guards need to step up their rebounding game as well.

The struggles thus far have to be put in the context of this being just two games, the latter being the season opener for the Bulls who were jacked up more than usual due to it being the first game for Chicago native Dwyane Wade and ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo.

“We have to focus on boxing out,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Guards have to do a better job. Guys like me, Al (Horford), Amir (Johnson), Tyler (Zeller) ... We have to do a good job of coming in the weak side and grabbing those; just focus on it, pay more attention to detail.”