Celtics coach Doc Rivers praised his captain Paul Pierce for carrying a monumental load in Boston's 87-80 win over the Hawks in Game 2 Tuesday night in Atlanta. Pierce scored 36 points and hauled down 14 rebounds in 44 minutes to pick up the slack for the suspended Rajon Rondo.
"He was a monster," Rivers said of Pierce. "He was great. His leadership, his intensity. In the third, I thought he was getting tired. We had him scoring and guarding Joe Johnson, and I just thought that was too much of a load for us to win the game at the end of the game. That's why we went smaller. So, Marquis and [Pietrus] could guard him, and Paul could kind of get rest defensively so he would have some energy offensively. But his leadership was absolutely terrific."
Rivers credited the team with picking up the slack for the suspended Rondo early on. Pierce scored Boston's first nine points and hit his first four shots.
"I told our guys it was just a team win," Rivers said. "You can pick out so many different little things that every single guy on the floor did for us. That's how you grind out wins. That's who we are.
"This team has done it all year. We've won games without Rondo, without Paul. This is a tough-minded basketball team. I do think having the veterans like Keyon and Marquis and Sasha allows for that. We knew paul Paul had to get going early. You could see our first seven plays, it was Paul Pierce left, right, center. Obviously, it's a make-miss league and the ball had to go in. I thought after that, didn't know if we'd win or lose, I knew we had a shot."
Pierce also pulled off some on-court dramatics when he "Tebowed" after a made free throw late in the fourth quarter.
"I didn't know he did," Rivers said. "You caught me off guard. I didn't see it. I missed it but if he did it, that's terrific. I wish he hadn't done it but I haven't seen it."