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."