paul pierce

Paul Pierce battled through another tough shooting night to score 36 points and the Boston Celtics wiped out Atlanta’s 11-point lead in the second half even without Rajon Rondo, stunning the Hawks 87-80 on Tuesday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The series is tied 1-1. Game 3 is Friday night in Boston, and Rondo will be back for the Celtics in that one, his shorthanded team having claimed the home-court edge. The stellar point guard sat out a one-game suspension for bumping an official in the opener.

The Hawks appeared to be in control when they pushed out to a 65-54 lead late in the third quarter. But Boston sliced it to 66-61 by the end of the period, and Pierce led a dominating fourth.

The Celtics were up 74-72 when a quick spurt essentially finished the Hawks, especially when Josh Smith went out late in the game with a sprained left knee…

For good measure, Pierce also led his team in rebounding with 14. Garnett had 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Bradley, who shifted over to take Rondo’s spot at the point, chipped in with 14 points but only three assists - a far cry from what the Celtics usually get out of that position.

Johnson had 22 points but never got many open looks, hitting just 7 of 17 from the field. Smith had 16 points and 12 rebounds, the state of his knee now becoming a major concern for the Hawks, who already have played most of the season without Al Horford.

– Reported by the Associated Press