Playing without the suspended Rajon Rondo after his chest bump with official Marc Davis, Paul Pierce scored 36 and keyed an 11-2 run in the fourth quarter to lead the Celtics to a 87-80 win over the Hawks in Game 2 Tuesday night at Philips Arena. Pierce also finished with 14 rebounds while Kevin Garnett added 15 points and 12 rebounds. Avery Bradley had 14 points and just one turnover in 42 minutes while playing point guard in Rondo's absence. The Eastern Conference quarterfinal series is tied, 1-1.
Pierce came out red-hot and intent on picking up the early scoring slack for Rondo. He hit his first four shots from the field and scored Boston's first nine points as the Celtics jumped out to a 9-4 lead. The Celtics also did a much better job Tuesday of getting back on transition defense, keeping the Hawks from getting easy baskets the way they did in Game 1 Sunday night. The Celtics managed a 24-24 tie after one quarter as Pierce led the way with 13 points.
The Celtics jumped out to a 34-29 lead as Bradley heated up. But just as the Celtics appeared to find their rhythm for the first time in the series, the Hawks caught fire. The Hawks went on a 9-0 run to take a 38-34 lead.
The Celtics were not only missing Rondo but Ray Allen, as well. Without the NBA's all-time leading 3-point shooter in Game 1, the Celtics missed all 11 3-point shots. Boston was again brutal from long range on Tuesday, missing all seven threes in the first half as the Hawks took a 44-41 lead at the half. They missed two more treys in the third quarter before Keyon Dooling drained a left baseline three midway through the third to give the Celtics their first 3-pointer in 20 tries in the series.
Dooling would hit one more minutes later, but the Celtics were outscored 21-13 to open the third quarter and trailed, 65-54. But Boston ended the third on a 7-1 run to cut the lead to five heading into the fourth.
Pierce open the fourth by driving the lane to cut the lead to three. Then Bradley hit a baseline jumper with 8:48 left in the fourth to force a tie at 66-66. The jumper capped a 12-1 run. Pierce gave Boston its first lead since the second quarter with a field goal with under seven minutes left. His dunk with 3:50 left put the Celtics up, 76-72, and his three with 3:30 left put Boston up, 79-72. The Celtics outscored the Hawks 33-15 down the stretch to even the series.
Already without Zaza Pachulia and Al Horford, the Hawks lost big man Josh Smith to a sprained left knee in the second half and did not return. His status for the rest of the series is unknown.
The series now shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4 Friday and Sunday nights at TD Garden, and Rondo will be back on the court for the Celtics. For complete coverage from Paul Flannery on site in Atlanta, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics  and the Green Street  blog.