To call Paul Pierce’s effort, gritty, is an understatment. What Pierce did last night was show that he can still be considered an elite scorer and leader in this league, despite his age. The Celtics went into Atlanta last night after a dismal 83-74 loss, where they fought hard but just flat out didn’t play well. And last night looked as if it may have been the same. Playing without suspended Rajon Rondo and injury plagued Ray Allen, the Celtics needed many bench players to step up big, and they did. Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels stepped up in the clutch and helped the Celtics claw back form an 11 point second half deficit. Dooling hit a pair of second-half 3-pointers, the first of which snapped a 77-minute, 25-second stretch in which Boston failed to generate a trifecta to start the playoffs. And Daniels was stifling on defense, helping the Celtics dig out of the double digit deficit hole. “We’re professionals,” Dooling said. “Throughout the season, we were in the rotation, out of the rotation, not playing that often. But you focus, you give yourself to the team, you never let yourself get out of shape, never let yourself get in a funk mentally, and stay in tune with the game plan and the schemes. Then when your number is called, you gotta be ready.” What Dooling said proves what many people have said before, the Celtics are a “Team”. There is no one superstar that the Celtics can rely on to take over a game (Although Pierce did last night), they play together and feed off of one another. Considering this teams average age (28.5), they need to play with the team mentality, they do, and that helps them succeed.
The Celtics stole away home-court advantage from the Hawks last night in grand fashion. Paul Pierce’s gutty performance (36,14,4), helped the Celtics dig out of a hole and helped them stay out of an even bigger one. Paul Pierce looked like the one who had won Finals MVP in 2008, slow-stepping his way into the paint all night for gritty buckets and getting to the line for free throws. He played a team high 44 minutes and after the game he tweeted, “44 [minutes] tonite, old for this, I need a bed right now!!!” And rightfully deserved he saved the Celtics from going down 2-0 in a series where they couldn’t afford it. But Pierce didn’t do it alone, Kevin Garnett chipped in with (15,12) to help shoulder the Celtics defensively. “Everyone knows it’s not about one person; it’s about the group, the team. This team is like a well-oiled machine, you come in, you know what it is. There’s no excuses. You give 100 percent, that’s what it is.” Anything less just wouldn’t be Celtics basketball.